Perhaps my companion and I had been wandering around for too long in the humid Dubai night, but on entering Mastro Pizzeria it seemed to be wonderfully cool and refreshing. For such a minuscule venue, it had large windows, the space had been used well and was stylishly appointed, with sleek, modern furnishings in soft grey and purple hues.
We took our seats in the angular-looking but cosy chairs and browsed the menu: it looked, for once, as though my vegetarian pal would have a reasonable choice. Among the starters, the fritto misto looked a good option for us to share: I’d eat the meat-stuffed olives, and if they could leave the anchovies out of the ricotta-filled courgette flowers, it would be all go for everything else. Requests for substitutions and exclusions in recipes often feel a little demanding to me, but in this case it seemed so simple. So we explained to the waitress, and she though it would be no problem: everything else on the plate would be the same, except with no anchovies.
When the dish arrived, we thought we’d better pinpoint those olives to prevent my friend inadvertently chewing on one, so we asked the waitress. I’m not sure what happened next, but some kind of verbal meltdown ensured. After much to-ing and fro-ing , eventually the answer came – there were no meat-stuffed olives (the kitchen had run out), but the anchovies had not been removed.
Unfortunately, and rightly so, my friend became reluctant to dabble in this dish, which was now mainly variations on a theme of mozzarella and arancini that were much of a muchness. So he stuck to the tomato bruschetta, which was decent enough: it was reasonably fresh and fragrant, although the limp slices of bread were completely out of step.
The vegetarian pizza, with aubergine, courgette and mushrooms was a better bet. Although the filling in the spinach and ricotta ravioli was a little dry, I was quite enjoying it. Until, that is, my friend suddenly announced he could taste fish. I knew he was right; the tomato sauce definitely had that salty fullness you get when cooking with anchovies. More confusion ensured and we were faithfully promised that the dish was entirely veggie-friendly. The veggie at the table wasn’t convinced, though, and I suspect he was right not to be.
So, probably ravenous by this stage, my friend finished with panna cotta for dessert and said it was his favourite dish of the night. In terms of taste, he had a point: it was smooth, while unusually fresh and light. Perhaps, however, it was partly relief that this dish couldn’t possibly contain any more fish.
As I paid the bill, I decided I wouldn’t rule out returning to Mastro, perhaps for a cheap and (very) late-night pizza, but not if I have a vegetarian friend in tow.
The bill (for two) 1x Fritto misto Dhs46 1x Bruschetta Dhs28 1x Ravioli Dhs62 1x Pizza Dhs56 1x Panna cotta Dhs33 1x Tropical juice Dhs22 1x Large water Dhs16 Total (including service) Dhs263