Where to get the best pizza, pasta and more in Dubai
Time Out Dubai staff
Winner – Best Italian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013
Armani/Ristorante As would be expected from an Armani-branded venue, Ristorante is a stylish affair. There is some truth in the claim that, with its minimalist decor and neutral chic, the restaurant resembles an airport departure lounge. But the monotone hues and understated furnishings don’t deliver a sterile environment. Burj Fountain views are available, but diners are as likely to watch the artistry unfolding in the enormous kitchen that sits right in the centre of the dining room. Trust the chef to guide you through the degustation menu for signature dishes. If the season is right, then, the white truffle crème brûlée sets the standards for the meal to follow. Beef tartare with quail egg, foie gras terrine, baby squid filled with crab – not your standard Italian starters, but such is the technical ability of the Armani chefs that haute cuisine works every time. The restaurant’s Italian roots have not been ignored, with dishes such as seared langoustine risotto or open lobster ravioli proving that modern Italian and farmhouse recipes can be translated into a cool contemporary setting. Mains take the same approach. Fine-dining twists, such as the presentation of the roasted rabbit with fava beans, go to show the kitchen team are every bit as stylish as the Armani-clad waiters. Sure, you’re paying a premium for the name, but rest assured this is quality of the highest order. Open daily 7pm-11pm. Armani Hotel Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai, dubai.armanihotels.com (04 888 3888).
Highly Recommended – Best Italian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013
BiCE Despite being one of the city’s most expensive Italian restaurants, BiCE is also the most consistently busy. Regular diners know it is the place to go for premium Italian food. Visit on an empty stomach because you’ll need to sample a pasta or risotto course before going on to the substantial mains. Try the homemade ricotta and spinach tortelli with white and black truffle sauces to see just how delicate Italian cooking can be, or splash out on the house special – lobster fettuccine – for an unusual twist. Mains are universally excellent, but allow yourself to be persuaded by the seafood-loving staff. They wheel around the day’s freshest catches before every meal, and melt-in-the-mouth sea bass and juicy sea scallops work well at this beachside setting. It’s a special-occasion restaurant, so allow yourself the indulgence of a raspberry pannacotta and a selection of handmade Italian sweets to finish the meal. Open Sun-Sat 12.30pm-3.30pm,7pm-11.30pm. Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Resort, JBR, Dubai Marina, www.hilton.com (04 318 2530).
Highly Recommended – Best Italian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013 Splendido Everything about this Ritz-Carlton Jumeirah restaurant oozes class. An elegantly designed dining room means all tables have an intimate feel, but if the weather permits, step out through the patio doors onto the pretty garden terrace. Surrounded by shrubbery and with discreet yet friendly staff, it provides the romantic setting the food deserves. Traditional and à la carte menus are available, with the restaurant’s real highlights to be found on the latter. Our goose with white pear starter was intensely flavoured and an interesting alternative to the usual carpaccio. Similarly, the duck breast served with ricotta cheese was a welcome variation on a standard meal. No pizzas are available – Splendido sees itself above such inventions – but the traditional menu does serve time-honoured pasta and risotto creations. Desserts are creamy and stylish, and Splendido’s Italian cheese selection is excellent. Expect to pay heartily for a meal here, but be assured it really is splendid. Open daily 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-11pm. Ritz-Carlton Dubai, Dubai Marina, www.ritzcarlton.com (04 399 4000).
BiCE Mare Innovative Tuscan seafood and breathtaking Burj Khalifa views combine to make Souk Al Bahar’s signature Italian a memorable Dubai dining experience. Just be sure to get a table on the al fresco terrace. The fairly soulless monochrome dining room is usually filled with diners wishing they’d booked early enough or the weather were cool enough to be sat outside. However, the food is fantastic wherever you are seated and, with this being one of the few Dubai eateries to declare itself a seafood specialist, you should stick to that theme. If you’ve never tried seafood variants on pasta, then the spaghetti tossed in clams, paccheri with monkfish or fettuccine with lobster show the variety of tastes it can offer. Food is rarely simplistic, with most of the fish dishes being given the obligatory twist. This means the baked turbot has a side of black truffle, and even the tuna and Sicilian vegetables dish is glamourised with a pomegranate reduction. In the safe hands of the excellent kitchen team, it tends to work – but expect to pay heartily for the artistry. Open daily noon-midnight. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, www.bicemare.com (04 423 0982).
Bussola There are two ways to experience Bussola, and depending on your mood you can enjoy either. Settle in the sophisticated upscale restaurant down on beach level or take the winding staircase to the fashionable pizzeria above. We’ve got nothing against the fantastic pizzas with traditional Italian crusts and global topping favourites (try the Tartufata – mozzarella, cream cheese and black and white truffles – for one of the city’s more sophisticated slices), but we recommend the fine-dining selection. Ignore the poolside revellers and beachgoers strolling past the tables and concentrate your attention on the quality of the food. The crunchiness of the vegetables with the basil pesto risotto gives what can sometimes be a sloppy dish a distinctive bite, and the numerous meat dishes – we recommend the lamb – are top class. Most dishes come with a twist of creativity, such as caremelised pearl onions with the salmon carbonara, to make this beachside favourite a decadent treat. Open Sun-Sat noon-2.45pm, 7pm-10.45pm. Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Al Suffouh Road, www.westinminaseyahi.com (04 511 7391).
Cavalli Club and Restaurant Zebra-print chairs, bejewelled chandeliers and Gothic candlesticks: from the fur-lined elevators to the golden reptilian bottle holders, Roberto Cavalli’s homage to excess is a relentless assault on the senses. The Cavalli Club is not for everybody – that much is clear. The busy lounge/nightclub, pumping soundtrack and fashion-forward dress code is going to deter all but the most dedicated style-hunters. Those not put off by the thought of dining under crystal drapes aren’t going to be disappointed, however. Dishes fall at the modern end of the Italian spectrum, with creations like smoked foie gras with pineapple marmalade unique among Dubai’s high-end Italian restaurants. We recommend the relative simplicity of the smoked duck breast with raspberry vinaigrette before the flamboyantly presented mains (Zebra-print tortelli to match your shoes?). Substance isn’t sacrificed for style – sauces are rich and full-flavoured. Like the decor and dishes, the prices are eye-catching but worth it when you need to make a lasting impression. Open daily 8pm-3am. Fairmont Dubai Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 9260).
Frankie’s Italian Frankie Dettori’s name hangs over the door and the restaurant was co-founded by Marco Pierre White, making this Italian restaurant a true celebrity affair. Dark woods, plush furnishings and thick carpets normally add a sombre edge to a restaurant, but pictures of Frankie and Marco with their famous friends serve to remind visitors that dining out should be fun. The food is imaginative and ambitious, with thick steaks (served with a porcini and truffle sauce), veal cheeks and rack of lamb being particular favourites. Starters are more hit-and-miss – the calamari are disappointingly dry, for instance – but the excellent dessert selection, (try the cherry tiramisu), is worth the trip alone. It might not win the race, but Frankie’s is certainly part of the chasing pack. Open daily 12.30pm-4pm, 6pm-1.30am. Al Fattan Towers, The Walk, JBR, Dubai Marina (04 399 4311).
Medzo An Egyptology-themed lifestyle complex might not be the setting where you’d expect to find an authentic Italian restaurant, making the discovery of Medzo all the more appreciated. The restaurant exudes light, with white drapes and floor-to-ceiling windows creating interesting spaces leading out to the vineyard-style patio. Some of Dubai’s friendliest waiting staff breeze between tables, recommending dishes and chatting amiably to diners. The food, if such a thing is possible, is equally approachable, with chunky pastas, rich tomato-y sauces and juicy seafood nestling in creamy risottos. The highlights come recommended by the restaurant’s matriarch, Nonna Livia. The baby grilled chicken is served with chilli marmalade and the speciality beef tenderloin is recommended with sautéed spinach and garlic. We’ve found the restaurant to be empty on occasion, but catch it on one of the many busy nights and the atmosphere is that of a bustling piazza. Open daily 12.30pm-3pm, 7.30pm-11.30pm. Pyramids Wafi, Oud Metha, firstname.lastname@example.org (04 324 4100).
Ronda Locatelli There are few restaurants as dramatic as celebrity chef Giorgio Locatelli’s Italian in Atlantis The Palm. Situated in the tourist-packed avenues inside the hotel, diners must pass an arresting fire and water feature to gain entry to the boutique grotto that is the dining area. Swirling lightshades hang from the ceilings as blazing orange walls, asymmetric designs and imposing furniture create one of the city’s funkier spaces. Food, as should be demanded from a restaurant bearing the name of one of the world’s most famous chefs, is of a high standard. Cold cuts of meat are freshly sliced and portions are generous, while salads are hearty and zestily seasoned. Pasta dishes are of the old school and all the better for it. A simple seafood pappardelle (broad pasta), for example, is a favourite dish and comes with generous helpings of octopus, mussels and white fish and a light spicy sauce. Open Sat-Wed noon-10.30pm, Thu-Fri noon-11.30pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, www.atlantisthepalm.com (04 426 2626).
Segreto This fine-dining Italian is one of the stand-out restaurants at the upscale Madinat Jumeirah complex. A pleasant terrace overlooks the attractive waterways while understated interior decor and friendly, efficient staff reinforce the ethos of the restaurant: romantic sophistication. Thankfully the food matches the setting and atmosphere, with dishes aimed at delicate palates and adventurous foodies. The Wagyu carpaccio is an interesting take on a popular dish and indicates the lengths chefs are willing to go to achieve culinary perfection. Likewise, the rhubarb dressings for salads. Mains stray far beyond pizza, pasta and risotto dishes (think sea bass ravioli and maccheroni stuffed with prawn mousse) to show the full range of modern Italian cuisine. Veal Milanese, grilled lamb and stuffed artichokes will appeal to foodies. Round off with Italian ice creams, cheeses and coffee for one of the city’s more passionate dining experiences. Bellissimo! Open daily 7pm-11.30pm. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, MJrestaurants@jumeirah.com (04 366 6730 / 6649).