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As with any major metropolis, Beijing offers plenty of international options when you’re craving Italian. And from most accounts Mercante is hard to find, a tight squeeze and serves small portions. And yet the cozy Italian restaurant, actually run by an Italian chef (always a good sign), has no trouble packing its ten tables on a nightly basis.

Once you’re able to find this little piece of Italy hidden amongst local businesses in a hutong, squeeze yourself into one of the few available tables and start with a glass of wine while you choose from their menu of northern Italian staples or their nightly specials. Their meats and cheese plates are respectable as well as their ricotta starter but what gets people talking is their handmade pasta, the art of which the chef/owner learned from his Bolognese grandmother.

If you still have room (the portions are small so you will), finish with their panna cotta – supposedly the best in Beijing.