Winner – Best Italian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Armani/Ristorante The decor is minimalist and sleek, while the service is suitably slick, yet still warm and friendly. But the main draw is the food. There’s a definite homemade quality about the dishes, with a slight twist that makes them special. Freshly made pasta and rich sauces mean the traditional offerings will tick all the right boxes, while the signature seafood and meat dishes are exquisite. In particular, the sea bass is seasoned beautifully, with the side of porcini mushrooms and aubergine complementing it perfectly. Saving room for dessert is a must, even if it’s just for the La Sfera. With a crispy sugar coating, this spherical dessert contains cream and a sponge-like filling, with raspberry sorbet in the centre. Open daily 7pm-11.30pm. Armani Hotel Dubai, Burj Khalifa (04 888 3888).
Highly Commended – Best Italian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
BiCE Slick service awaits at this sleek Italian eatery. Understated yet stylish, the combination of dark woods and crisp white tablecloths sets the scene for a pleasant dining experience, helped along by the warm, courteous staff. It’s also the little extras that help make Bice standout. The warm, freshly baked basket of bread is the perfect introduction, while the selection of chocolates and cookies presented with the bill ensure you leave with a smile on your face. There’s nothing on the menu that’ll detract from the experience either, with a substantial selection of classic Italian dishes. Nothing strays too far from the traditional, but that, in our opinion, is a plus when everything is cooked so well and using fresh ingredients. Bice is open daily for both lunch and dinner, and no matter what time you visit, you’re unlikely to find it deserted, which can only be a good sign. Open Sat-Thu 12.30pm-11.30pm, Fri 1pm-4pm (brunch). Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Resort, The Walk, JBR (04 318 2520).
Highly Commended – Best Italian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Medzo It’s quite hard to find Medzo, tucked away in a quiet corner of the Wafi Pyramids. But it’s certainly worth seeking out this quaint Italian restaurant, with its relaxed surrounds and exquisite food. If you visit during the cooler months, then make sure you get a table on the peaceful, tastefully designed terrace. As for the food, it’s all high-quality ingredients perfectly prepared. The seared tuna starter is more delicious than it should be considering its simplicity, but the perfectly cooked slices melt in the mouth. You’ll also find plenty of dishes with a twist, including the grilled baby chicken and potatoes in a spicy mustard and chilli marinade. With strong flavours and a slight kick, this is another standout dish. Service is also slick, but you do have to pay for this, which leads to our only slight gripe: portion sizes are quite small for the cost. But there’s no questioning that this is Italian cuisine of the highest quality. Open daily 12.30pm-3pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Wafi Pyramids, Oud Metha (04 324 4100).
Bussola Bussola is a restaurant that can cater for your mood. If you fancy a casual pizza with friends, then head upstairs to its dedicated pizzeria. If you’d rather indulge in some fine dining, then downstairs is the place for you. Whichever venue you choose, beautiful sea views are on offer, and the outdoor terraces make this a top spot during the cooler months. The staff complement this casual setting with their easy going manner, which effortlessly puts you at ease. Seafood features heavily on the menu, but you can also find some traditional meaty dishes. Fans of the sweeter side to Italian cuisine should certainly go for Bussola’s signature molten chocolate concoction; the warm cake oozes chocolate sauce, with a pear sorbet offsetting the richness perfectly. Make sure you set aside plenty of time to visit Bussola, not because the service is slow, but because you’ll want to unwind in the relaxing atmosphere. Fine dining open daily noon-2.45pm, 7pm-10.45pm; pizzeria open Sun-Thu 5.30pm-11.45pm, Fri-Sat noon-11.45pm. Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Umm Suqeim, www.bussoladubai.com (04 511 7136).
Casa Mia Teeming with atmosphere, this cosy venue has an authentic Italian vibe and is always busy. Staff are welcoming and the attentive, zippy service makes the experience even more worth it. The ambitious menu offers adventurous delicacies including Italian caviar, salmon and sea scallops carpaccio, and teeny morsels of tasty baked land snails with herb and porcini butter. As well as cold meat cuts, you can tuck into Sardinian-style gnocchetti pasta with sausage, fennel seeds and a somewhat overpowering saffron sauce, which is served up from the pan straight onto your plate at the table. For something a little heavier, opt for the roasted corn-fed chicken breast or the thin escalope of veal served with a mushroom sauce, buttery mashed potato and wilted spinach. Even if you’re bursting at the seams, it would be silly to miss the opportunity to sample the faultless creamy vanilla pannacotta with spiced red berries and mango carpaccio. Open daily 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7.30pm-11.30pm. Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 217 0000).
Cavalli Club Restaurant and Lounge Though not famed for the ‘restaurant’ at the end of its name, Cavalli Club actually serves up some pretty decent offerings. If you’re not put off by the strict dress code and nightclub lounge setting, not forgetting a late dinner – the restaurant doesn’t open until 9.30pm – then you’ll find a selection of traditional Italian meals with an innovative twist. While dishes like the zebra-patterned tortelli – designed to match the decor, perhaps – will immediately catch the eye, some of the less exciting sounding options are equally worthy of your attention. We’re particularly impressed with the pasta selection, which gives you the chance to sample three of the restaurant’s equally delicious pasta dishes. Starters and desserts are slightly lacking, but the main courses more than make up for this. And with monthly specials and regular updates of the menu, Cavalli Club’s restaurant offers a tasty aside to its more illustrious nightclub. Open daily 9.30pm-11.30pm. Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.cavalliclubdubai.com (04 332 9260).
Roberto’s Roberto’s has quite a reputation among foodies in Dubai, and with good reason. Seek it out in a nondescript corner of DIFC and you’ll first be knocked back by the size of the place. Sprawling rooms lead to other sprawling rooms, including a stylish lounge for drinks and a scenic outdoor terrace with a pretty spectacular view of the Burj Khalifa. Service is inviting – both friendly and non-intrusive. And as for the food, well, it’s pretty much perfect. Italian food should be simple and bursting with flavour, which is exactly what Roberto’s pulls off. Fettuccine, possible the most basic dish on the menu, is rich and delicious – the pasta is fresh, the meat tender and the sauce thick and satisfying. Desserts, too, are wonderful renditions of classics. You won’t be disappointed if you choose either the creamy panna cotta or the chocolate-y tiramisu with its crunchy topping. Prices are fairly steep at Roberto’s, but you’ll feel you’re getting value for every dirham. Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-midnight. Gate Village Building 1, DIFC, www.robertos.ae (04 386 0066).
Ronda Locatelli Ronda Locatelli is certainly striking. The fire theme, with flames flickering at the entrance and bright strokes of red and black inside, makes it a dramatic place to dine. Yet somehow this adventurous decor remains inviting, helped by the excellent staff who are effortlessly friendly and efficient. Its location within the touristy Atlantis hotel also ensures a casual atmosphere, with the strict dress code of other high-end Italian restaurants not implemented here. Yet don’t be fooled into thinking this is going to be a budget eat, because it certainly isn’t. Thankfully, the food just about lives up to its price tag. The spicy chicken coated in bread crumbs is simple, but has an enjoyable texture and kick. On our visit, however, it was dessert that stood out a mile – go for the creamy, rich and incredibly moreish panna cotta and you’re sure to end the meal on a high. Open Sat-Wed noon-4.45pm, 6pm-10.45pm; Thu-Fri noon-4.45pm, 6pm-11.45pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Segreto Hidden within a labyrinth of corridors and staircases within Madinat Jumeirah, Segreto is a stylish place for a casually romantic dinner. Warm tones and low lighting greet diners, with seating options available next to Madinat’s waterways. You’ll spot all your favourite Italian dishes on the menu, which don’t stray far from tradition. The crab risotto is a rewarding choice, striking the right balance between light and rich, while the substantial tortiglioni bolognese is rustic in appearance and taste, with strong flavours. Desserts, however, are a tad disappointing – the tiramisu won’t blow you away and you’ll have to be quick to enjoy the gelato before it becomes entirely liquid. If you go on a quiet night, you may also find the staff a bit overbearing, which can detract from the romantic atmosphere. Open daily 6.30pm-11.30pm. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6730).
Splendido With warm tones, an attractive wooden bar running down the length of one wall and crisp, white table cloths under a high ceiling, Splendido is a warm and inviting restaurant. You can also enjoy your dinner al fresco on the outdoor patio, which boasts stretching sea views, particularly spectacular at sunset. Service is suitably understated for such a location, while the dining experience is enhanced with some complimentary extras. A small pastry containing beef bacon and cheese with garlic dip, a lobster tartare, large bread basket and a selection of chocolates with the bill were provided free of charge to every diner on our visit. Seafood features quite heavily on the menu, and it seems these dishes are the ones to go for – the generous serving of plump, tender tiger prawns sets the gnocchi dish apart. In contrast, the roasted corn-fed baby chicken lacks a punch and is a rather miserly portion. Open Sat-Thu 7am-11am, 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-11pm; Fri 7am-11am, 7pm-11pm. Ritz-Carlton Dubai, The Walk, JBR (04 399 4000). Brunch: Fri 12.30pm-3.30pm.