We’ve eaten our way through the best disc-shaped delicacies on offer at the city’s Italian restaurants.
Pizza may have been invented by the Italians, but it has since found a home in nearly every cuisine across the globe. The Americans, for instance, are said to eat about 400,000 sq m of the stuff a day (that’s about 350 slices per second). The Middle East even has its own answer to pizza: manakish. It’s believed the iconic dish was taken back to Italy by Marco Polo, after he acquired a taste for flatbreads in the region.
If you’re hankering for the more traditional Italian incarnation, there are more than 120 Italian restaurants in Dubai, most of which are equipped with a wood-fired oven. And don’t even get us started on the 30-plus Pizza Hut outlets…
With restaurants now filling up after a long summer, we dug out our baggiest clothing and set about eating our way through 21 of what we’d heard were the city’s best pizza options. We chose our pizzas based on staff recommendation, then categorised them by price and rated them on the quality of the base, toppings and cooking method in an attempt to uncover Dubai’s finest offerings. Here are our findings.
Under Dhs39 Pompeii Pizza: Polla Spicy Pompeii. This small restaurant and takeaway specialist serves decent pizza. Cooked in the Italian style in a wood-fired oven, the enormous selection and long list of special ingredients ensure the variety is huge: the spicy chicken we tried included marinated meat and a tangy sun-dried tomato. Toppings were generous without being overloaded, and the sensible amount of cheese ensured it wasn’t too stringy to devour.
Best for: Jumeirah Lakes Towers residents looking for a neighbourhood haunt offering reasonable-quality Italian-style pizza. Rating: 3/5 Dhs28. JLT Cluster T, 1 Lake Plaza (04 453 9390).
Dhs40-49 Carluccio’s Pizza: Rustica. Pizza is relatively new to the menu at Carluccio’s. The menu includes sliced pear and walnut with gorgonzola and yellow-fin tuna with mozzarella, although the waiter recommended the roast potato with garlic, rosemary, mozzarella and fontina cheese.
Made in Italian style (obviously) in the huge stone oven, the thin crust was light, crisp and even. But we missed the inclusion of a tomato sauce or a stand-out ingredient to dominate the palate (the potato, garlic and rosemary were all understated).
Best for: An al-fresco lunch – grab an outdoor table and watch the world go by. Rating: 3/5 Dhs43. The Dubai Mall (04 434 1320), Mirdif City Centre (04 284 3728), Dubai Marina Mall (04 399 7844).
Marzano Pizza: Quattro stagioni. This thin Italian-style base hosted a good slathering of tomato sauce and a generous sprinkling of cheese, providing an ideal sauce-to-dough ratio and ensuring the pizza was nicely moist in the centre while staying crispy at the edges. The toppings were of varying quality: the beef pepperoni was a little synthetic and chemical-tasting, yet the veggies (courgette, broccoli, bell peppers) were fresh and cooked to al-dente perfection, and the chicken section offered a zingy mix of tender meat, herbs and cherry tomatoes.
Best for: Reliable, homely eats. Rating: 3/5 Dhs49. Souk Al Manzil, Downtown Dubai (04 420 1136).
Napoletana Pizza: Napoletana. Napoletana’s pizzas boast a thin, Italian-style base with a wispy rustic crust. The house dish is based on the classic Italian trio of capers, anchovies and olives, and featured a fair smattering of flavours without being overpowering (a real risk with fishy taste) – although we doubt the capers were fresh. The restaurant prides itself on a wood-baked approach following traditional methods. While there’s a distinct authentic flair that puts this above American-style venues, the restaurant’s claim to offer ‘Italy in your neighbourhood’ may be slightly stone-baked, but for the price and location this is a strong bet.
Best for: Those who want an Italian-style experience without the expense. Rating: 3/5 Dhs42. The Walk at JBR, next to the Sofitel Jumeirah Beach (800 627 653).
Pizzame Pizza: Al Pollo Diavola. Pizzame offers fresh pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven. Chefs prepare the bases first thing each morning before the restaurant opens, then roll them into thin, Italian-style crusts to be topped with fresh tomato sauce and toppings supplied locally. You won’t have to spend a small fortune to eat fresh here and, as a result, toppings tend to be simple with a hint of classic Italian – the bresaola, for example, is also supplied locally.
Best for: Post-pub grub or a swift lunch. Rating: 4/5 Dhs47. JLT, Cluster J, beneath Spinneys (800 749 9263).
Pizzaro Pizzeria Pizza: La Verace. This simple and unfussy pizzeria offers a selection of several exciting-sounding pizzas, with a particularly good line in vegetable-packed options. The most popular on the menu is an elevated version of a simple classic: a cheese, tomato and basil-topped margherita. The base was soft yet still crunchy in the places where it should be and the buffalo mozzarella was reasonably good, while the flavours of the sweet cherry tomatoes, and aromatic oregano and basil were distinct yet cohesive. Not an exceptional affair, but still a well-executed and uncomplicated pizza.
Best for: An impromptu pitstop: if you’re passing by, head in for a bite. Rating: 3/5 Dhs49. Emaar Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, opposite Qamardeen Hotel (04 422 5666).
Rossovivo Pizza: Raffaele. The Neapolitan chef (who’s won an award for the Raffaele pizza) uses a traditional clay oven, also from this pizza-centric city. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the base was flawless in both texture and taste, topped with mozzarella, cream, pistachio, bresaola and basil. This inventive creation was realised in a delicious balance of vibrant, full flavours, somehow combined into this most elegant creation.
Best for: Takeaway: while the venue is hardly worth a visit, the creative pizzas are the business. Rating: 4/5 Dhs45. Millennium Tower, Business Bay, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 380 5833).
Vapiano Pizza: BBQ chicken pizza. Just the right size for one, Vapiano’s BBQ chicken pizza was a lip-smacking break from the traditional cheese and tomato varieties. The base was Italian-style, crisp and light thanks to it being freshly made and cooked to order in the pizza oven right behind the counter. The restaurant’s canteen-style ordering system means pizza lovers may find their order takes longer than their companions ordering pasta or salad, but it’s worth the wait. The barbecue sauce was caramelised until it was deliciously sticky, and was weighed down with smoked cheese, barbecue chicken and crunchy onions.
Best for: A quick fix that’s classier than the usual fast-food joint. Rating: 3.5/5 Dhs42. Al Thuraya Tower, Dubai Media City, next to Media One Hotel (04 437 0786).
Dhs50-59 Il Rustico Pizza: Pollo cajun. This thin, Italian-style crust was neatly, but not thickly, covered in a rich tomato sauce. It would have benefited from less cheese, but was complemented by a generous helping of tasty cajun chicken pieces, then cooked in a traditional oven. Although we did spot the chef using a rolling pin on the dough, rather than attempting the sort of pizza acrobatics that such an open-plan kitchen cries out for.
Best for: A cheap, cheerful slice of Italy. Rating: 3/5 Dhs52. Chelsea Plaza Hotel, Satwa (04 398 2222).
La Piazza Pizza: Pollo. The signature pizza features grilled chicken, oregano, mozzarella, garlic and tomato sauce: although we were impressed with the thin-crust Italian-style base, we found toppings bland and under-flavoured. Without options for build-your-own creations or more original varieties, there is nothing to make La Piazza stand out – consider it post-cinema fodder rather than a destination pizza.
Best for: Pre- or post-cinema sustenance for visitors to Vox at Mall of The Emirates. Rating: 2/5 Dhs50. Mall of the Emirates, Barsha (04 340 9113).
Red Tomato Pizza: Alla Carne Mista. The menu describes the pizza as meat-rich, and it didn’t disappoint: it comprised beef ham, turkey ham, beef salami and beef hotdog – the latter was highly processed, with a suspiciously smooth texture. The hams and salami were better, although the whole thing was still overwhelmingly carnivorous. The inclusion of Italian mozzarella, olives and capsicum gave it a European twist, but the use of dried herbs was disappointing and the chilli oil made things a little greasy. On the upside, the thin-crust base was freshly prepared, with hand-tossed dough cooked in a wood-fired oven.
Best for: An authentic Italian restaurant atmosphere. Rating: 2.5/5 Dhs59. Al Barsha (800 866286).
Dhs60-69 La Veranda Pizza: Margherita. The slender-based pizzas at La Veranda are almost identical to those served in other Italian outlets run by Jumeirah, such as Toscana. Though perhaps too liberally heaped with cheese and verging on the dry side (a little more tomato and olive oil might have helped), at least the margherita wasn’t greasy, so didn’t leave us feeling too guilty. It was, however, a little on the bland side. If you can’t find a combination on the menu that tickles your fancy, the staff will oblige specific requests.
Best for: Impressing visiting relatives (you can get great snaps of the Burj Al Arab from your al-fresco dining table). Rating: 3/5 Dhs60. Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8999).
Jamie’s Italian Pizza: Woodlands mushrooms. The pizzas here are also prepared in a traditional oven. This sourdough variety was wonderfully crispy and thin, covered in oven-roasted woodland mushrooms, tomato and basil sauce, black truffle oil, peppery rocket and shaved parmesan, and rustically presented on a wooden board. The ingredients were all supremely fresh, and this pizza is paradise for those who like mushrooms – the first bite was so warm, earthy and full, it was like being transported in to an autumnal forest. A touch of truffle oil rounded off the flavour for a heightened intensity.
Best for: Avid restaurant-goers looking for a gourmet experience at the hands of a celebrity chef. Rating: 4/5 Dhs69. Marina Pavilion, Dubai Festival City (04 232 9969).
Sicilia Pizza: Caprese. Boasting a thin, crisp Italian-style base with plump, doughy edges that would keep even the most patriotic American happy, Sicilia’s pizzas are the best of both worlds and impressively filling. The Caprese boasted a sweet, tangy tomato sauce mingled with fresh mozzarella and a splash of extra virgin olive oil, making for a rich, sloppy meal that required a knife and fork to complete the job (unless you want to end up wearing the pizza). The extra chunks of fresh creamy buffalo mozzarella offered an even richer treat, complimented by a scattering of plump olives. Head here with an empty stomach to make the most of it.
Best for: Relaxing and refuelling after a shopping trip at Ibn Battuta Mall. Rating: 4/5 Dhs68. Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate, The Gardens (04 444 5613).
Dhs70-79 Après Pizza: Sweet chilli chicken. This quirky pizza was a hybrid of tastes, with Thai sweet chilli sauce and chunks of chicken decorating a crisp, Italian-style base. Though pizza purists may recoil in horror, adventurous punters will be rewarded. Cheese was generously heaped over a saucy base, but the dish managed to retain its ‘treat’ appeal rather than entering lactose-overdose territory, punctuated by the sharp tang of the sweet, spicy sauce.
Best for: A post-work feed and drinks (there are offers on a bottle of grape and a pizza). Rating: 4/5 Dhs72. Mall of the Emirates (04 341 2575).
Armani Caffé Pizza: Drago. The pizzas here are as stylish as their surroundings in The Dubai Mall’s Fashion Avenue. With a wafer-thin, light, crisp Italian crust baked in a traditional stone oven, this authentic pizza was a delight. It wasn’t overloaded with mozzarella, but the chefs didn’t scrimp on the other toppings: rocket leaves came piled high, with fresh ingredients hidden underneath. And when it comes to providing authenticity, no expense was spared. The truffles and truffle oils used are imported directly from Italy to give the pizzas their traditional, rustic taste.
Best for: Fashion fans who want to indulge. Rating: 4.5/5 Dhs70. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 339 8396).
Medzo Pizza: Focaccia con bufala e melanzane. The pizzas at this award-winning Italian restaurant are created before your eyes at the open pizza counter, and cooked in a traditional wood-fired oven. The focaccia bread-style pizza was buttery-rich, reflecting the spirit of this bread, yet was still light and crisp. Even so, there was a quibble over this pizza’s representation on the menu – it was described as being served with aubergine (‘melanzane’) and tomato, yet neither appeared on the pizza itself. The good-quality buffalo mozzarella is sourced from Campania in Italy (a region well-known for this variety of cheese), yet the toppings (anchovies, olives and basil) were overly simplistic. Disappointing from a venue where other areas of the menu are much more exciting.
Best for: Being charmed by charismatic owner Nonna Livia while enjoying an al-fresco dinner on the terrace. Rating: 3/5 Dhs70. Wafi, Oud Metha (04 324 4100).
Dhs80-89 Bussola Pizza: Calabrasi. This popular al-fresco pizza joint at The Westin has been closed for the summer (it’s tentatively due to open later in September), but last time we visited, the pizzas proved fantastic. The wood-fired calabrasi featured a delicate, thin crust, which just about buckled under the weight of the fresh toppings (salami, bell peppers, rich tomato paste and cheese). If you’re willing to wait a few weeks for your pizza, then hold on until this choice spot reopens.
Best for: A first-time date or a relaxed evening meal with a group of pizza-loving friends. Rating: 4/5 Dhs78. The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina (04 399 4141).
Ronda Locatelli Pizza: Caprino, aglio, pomodori sechi, pinoli. At Ronda Locatelli, pizzas are prepared at the open counter around a cavernous oven the size of a pottery kiln. It certainly makes an impressive focal point, but it’s in fact a less traditional hybrid oven using both gas and wood. The menu is updated regularly with seasonal specials, but the selection can also vary in quality. We tried the Caprino, but missed out on the pine nuts mentioned in the menu description. Nevertheless, the gentle and fragrant background of garlic, entwined with mellow yet tangy goat’s cheese and sour sun-dried tomatoes, provided a multitude of melted textures, making for an elegant mix. The base was equally successful, with a wafer-thin crunch.
Best for: The impressive giant pizza oven. Rating: 3.5/5 Dhs80. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Toscana Pizza: The Chef’s Pizza. The thin crust of this Italian-style, wood-fired pizza was cooked perfectly (not too soft, not too crunchy), though the random assortment of toppings – chicken, salami, chilli flakes and sweetcorn – wasn’t quite as enjoyable because there was no consistency in taste, texture or flavour. Note: the chef’s pizza isn’t on the menu – it’s served on request.
Best for: Quick and easy pizza, with great waterside views. Rating: 3/5 Dhs80. Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).
Dhs90+ Frankie’s Pizza: Buffalo mozzarella, smoked duck, chanterelle mushrooms, rocket and truffle oil. The chef’s signature pizza is a creative-sounding mix of classic Italian and premium ingredients, topped with smoked duck – something rarely seen on a pizza. The buffalo mozzarella is good-quality and tasty, even if there isn’t as much of it as we’d have liked. The smoked duck, however, comes across as a rushed afterthought: it’s plonked on top of a base that, thankfully, is well prepared, thin, crispy and generously portioned.
Best for: A relaxed but classy night out. Rating: 3/5 Dhs90. Oasis Beach Tower, JBR The Walk (04 399 4311).
Three alternative pizza options Macrobiotic pizza N_K_D, Dubai’s best-known pizza delivery service, has introduced a macrobiotic pizza using ingredients sourced from a UAE-based organic farm, and a dough made from an ‘ancestral blend’ of ten grains and seeds. N_K_D Pizza, various locations including Al Barsha (04 369 9396), Dubai Marina (04 453 4313) and Downtown Dubai (04 342 5755), www.nkdpizza.com.
Nutella pizza Switch at The Dubai Mall offers a dedicated Nutella-themed dessert section: options include a pizza slathered in choco-hazelnut spread, also featuring marshmallows, hazelnuts and white chocolate. Switch, The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 339 9131).
Tower pizza If one pizza isn’t enough for you, make your way to Debonairs in The Dubai Mall: the ‘stack’ and ‘tower’ pizzas look more like lasagne, with as many as four layers. Debonairs, The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 339 8452).
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ustad malik Sep 10, 2015 12:16 pm
you should try PIZZA HUT its the best pizza in town Lol
Jacq Jun 04, 2013 11:21 am
Itzza Pizza should be in the list, their chicken alfredo is an absolute must try!!
Lilian Parsoni May 21, 2013 06:17 am
I agree with Ruggiero!! There is no better pizza in Dubai thatn Brandi Pizzeria in DUbai Mall. It is THE original pizza from Naples and the simple Margherita is simply to die for...! I love this place 5/5!
Ibaceta Apr 06, 2013 09:57 am
FYI pizza was first originated in Greece then modernized in Naples, Italy. Get you facts straight!!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizza
Haleel Apr 01, 2013 04:00 pm
Debonairs is definitely the best when it comes to toppings and taste. and I tried their new wheat pizzas, just too good.