The Taikoo Li-based PizzaExpress Beijing store is the 500th branch worldwide, offering an Italian-inspired menu of antipasti, salads, pastas, and handmade pizzas. Located on the third floor, the restaurant has an outdoor terrace for low PM 2.5 days. The dining room is spacious and cheerful, with views of their pizza chefs (or pizzaiolos) throwing pizza dough in the open kitchen.
PizzaExpress is ideal for families, Italian food being one of the most accessible for most children’s palates. Our Peruvian mini-gastronome, Juan-Pablo Miranda (age 8), is no exception. He is served an incredible 12 dishes from the restaurant’s children’s menu and attacks them with gusto. “I love tomatoes,” he says passionately, simultaneously tackling a penne al pomodoro, Margherita pizza, and a side salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet peppers. The children’s menu costs RMB 78 for pizza or pasta, a drink, a dessert, and a “bambinoccino” (hot chocolate with foam). For an extra RMB 10, customers can also get a side salad or dough balls.
Juan-Pablo is thoroughly delighted to be missing a morning’s lessons at Le Lycee Francais International de Pekin. Although his mother tongue is Spanish, he studies Chinese and speaks fluent English and French. With such a gift for languages, it is easy to imagine he will follow his papa Juan-Miguel Miranda, minister counselor at the Embassy of Peru in China, into the foreign service.
Juan-Pablo ends up trying all four of the thin and crispy pies on the children’s menu: Margherita, American (pepperoni, mozzarella, and tomato), La Reine (ham, olives, mushrooms, mozzarella, and tomato), and Pollo (chicken, mozzarella, and tomato). “All the pizzas are good,” he says diplomatically, simultaneously sipping on cranberry juice and a Raspberry Cooler.
Mom Maria-Monica Miranda agrees, particularly praising the pepperoni pizza and the balance between crust and toppings. She is also complimentary about the chicken and orange salad from the a la carte menu. Both Mirandas rave about the restaurant’s signature dough balls. The family often goes out to eat pizza and will be adding PizzaExpress to their repertoire.
When Juan-Pablo’s warm chocolate fudge cake and bambinoccino arrive, his tact and finesse are forgotten. “In your face, mom! I’m drinking coffee!” he cries gleefully. (Although served in a cappuccino cup, his frothy beverage made with chocolate is in fact entirely caffeine-free.)
Service at PizzaExpress is friendly and efficient throughout, with an in-restaurant bathroom and plenty of high chairs. Famous in the UK for its family-friendliness, PizzaExpress is bringing that focus to Beijing. From this month, the restaurant is offering kids’ pizza making parties during off-peak hours. Lasting between 90 minutes and two hours, kids can toss dough, choose their own toppings, and eat their creations, with drinks, dough balls, and side salads included. A host will lead kids through games and activities, and each child will receive a balloon and certificate to take home.
Daily 11am-11.30pm. S4-30 Taikoo Li South, Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District (6417 6698, email@example.com) 朝阳区三里屯路太古里南区S4-30
This article originally appeared on p26-27 in the November 2014 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here. To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.