Have a hankering for great pizza and pasta in Dubai? Try these Italian favourites
Bice: The Dubai incarnation of this longstanding Milanese chain remains one of the city’s most popular restaurants. Service is deft and speedy, while the setting is spacious and attractive, with wood floors and plenty of room between tables. Dishes are delivered in super-quick time, so much so you might suspect them to be reheated. However, one taste tells you otherwise. Lobster carpaccio with caviar and artichoke heart – one of their signature dishes – makes a wonderful starter, and the pasta dishes are inventive too.
Call 04 318 2520 for reservations
Bussola: Bussola is the kind of place you’d expect the food to play second fiddle to the setting. The sea-view terrace makes this a great venue for the cooler months, plus there’s a formal area downstairs and a rooftop pizzeria. However, its surprisingly inventive food is equal to the setting – Bussola eschews the Italian-abroad staples for something a little closer to home. The homemade lobster ravioli is deeply satisfying, as is the classic bucatini all’Amatriciana (for pasta, there are few better venues in Dubai). All in all, Bussola is a well rounded restaurant, pairing a great setting with some very accomplished food.
Call 04 399 4141 for reservations
Carluccio’s: Carluccio’s is part-restaurant, part-gourmet supermarket and part-luxuty deli counter. But one thing’s for certain: the store – helmed by Italian celebrity chef Antonio Carluccio – is the best one-stop shop for Italian speciality items. Either take home some prepared goods such as pizzas, salads, focaccia sandwiches and freshly baked breads, or grab some imported cold cuts for crudités. The collection of Italian olive oils (Dhs44-120 per bottle) is particularly impressive and pairs nicely with the myriad cheeses on offer. To amp up your pasta dinner, also consider buying Carluccio’s freshly made pasta by the kilo.
Call 04 434 1320 for reservations
Certo: Certo is a buzzing restaurant that fits right into the mix at Media City. Don’t stop here for a romantic meal, though. Patrons tend to be office workers, whose power-lunch verbosity will resonate around the room thanks to the venue’s unfortunate echo. Instead, come to enjoy consistent Italian cuisine at reasonable prices. Scallops wrapped in lard on a mixed bed of mushrooms is a dish packed with flavour, while the simple battered calamari is tender and just as it should be. There’s a varied but straightforward choice of pastas and pizzas (including calzone), with grilled fish the highlight when it comes to mains. Desserts buck the trend. A simple bowl of strawberries served in balsamic vinegar and thick-ground pepper is a good example. Certo remains a decent bet for reliable Italian food, and a good spot for brunch.
Call 04 366 9111 for reservations
Frankie’s Italian Bar & Grill: An outpost of the successful London chain founded by Frankie Detorri and Marco Pierre White, Frankie’s has the feel of a private club but with none of the associated snootiness – you’re even made more than welcome with kids in tow. The menu, derived from the north of Italy, allows for both fine and casual dining, with plenty of weekday offers to entice punters through the doors. For the former, opt for the chef’s degustation menu, with two versions based around either fish or meat. Service is slick (despite the crowds), the tinkle of lounge piano is soothing, and the inclusive vibe is conducive to return visits.
Call 04 399 4311 for reservation
Fratelli La Bufala: As the name suggests, the focus of Fratelli La Bufala’s obsession is the buffalo. There is not a single item on the menu that does not incorporate either buffalo milk or buffalo meat. The result is a very rich meal. While we recommend skipping dishes incorporating the buffalo ham, the pizza, smothered deliciously in buffalo cheese, might just be the best in Dubai. The crust is of an ideal thickness and the toppings play together gloriously. If that weren’t enough, the desserts are just as much a treat. The tiramisu has chocolaty chunks of espresso-laced lady fingers lining the bottom of a cream-filled teacup. Consider this a theme restaurant that actually works.
Call 050 360 1983 for reservations
Ossigeno: This fine dining Italian restaurant has such an extensive menu you may need to arrive earlier than anticipated to give yourself the time to decide on your order. But you won’t be disappointed with whatever you choose as the standard is high. Between courses you are treated to a variety of amuse bouches and sorbet. Service is impeccable and extremely thoughtful; it is not overbearing like some other Dubai eateries. The decor has an ’80s, hotel feel to it and affords a nice view of the grounds.
Call 04 399 5555 for reservations
Prego’s: It’s always a good sign when a restaurant has one stand-out feature, something to set it apart from restaurants of its own kind. Prego’s special weapon is its on-site salumeria, which gives an added dimension to what might otherwise be a routine Italian (of which there are plenty in Dubai already). The menu opens with two pages of cured meats from across Italy. This is your chance to experiment – learn the subtleties that set apart crudo di San Daniele from prosciutto di Parma. But it’s not all cold meat. The seafood broth with shrimps, scallops and red mullet is understated in a good way, while the pizza and pasta dishes provide some interesting variations on the norm; the veal ravioli and portobello mushrooms are an explosion of flavour.
Call 04 435 0000 for reservations.
Ronda Locatelli: With award-winning Quattro out of the picture (it closed in 2009), Ronda Locatelli is an obvious alternative for top-end Italian dining in Dubai. Celebrity chef Giorgio Locatelli has ensured the food on offer is elevated well beyond the norm, while the informal but snappy service (paired with the wacky Atlantis setting) ensures a complete lack of fussiness. The menu is rustic and straightforward with flashes of brilliance that are dampened only by the occasional underwhelming dish.
Call 04 426 2626 for reservations
Segreto: Tucked away on the Al Qasr waterways, the aptly named Segreto makes for a discreet and romantic night out. The whole set-up bodes well for an evening of Italian fine dining: tables are well spaced, the wine list enormous, the staff attentive. For prime position, choose a seat on the covered terrace. In past years the food here has been hit and miss, but recent visits suggest some of these inconsistencies have been ironed out. Risotto comes in numerous creamy permutations (duck confit, asparagus, salmon), while pasta dishes include the likes of spaghetti with wagyu meatballs – sublime patties of beef which somehow manage the trick of being simultaneously rich and light. For service and setting, you can’t go wrong with Segreto, and when the kitchen is on form, this is a fine restaurant in all respects.
Call 04 366 6730 for reservations