Whether you’re a fan of superbike brand Ducati or not, it would be hard to miss its involvement when entering this café. From the meaty-looking red bike hung up outside like a goat in a butcher’s window, to the red and black branded items on sale in the boutique at the back, every focal point is bike-related. Granted, it’s the Ducati Caffè – what else would you expect?

The rest of the décor is fairly mild and sleek – all clean lines and chrome. Yet I hadn’t realised how much it was getting to my friend, until I made a passing joke about grabbing a table outside and watching The Dubai Mall’s multi-coloured mini-train go past. Surprised at the speed at which he jumped at the suggestion, I took him for being more a train than a bike fan – until he explained that he just couldn’t wait to get out of ‘that doctor’s waiting room’ of a dining space. And so it was that we sat with views of motorbike memorabilia on one side and oversized toy trains on the other, for one of the more odd dining experiences in Dubai.

That said, the menu looked fairly promising, with a selection of simple Italian classics: the ‘antipasti all’Italiana’ seemed as good a place as any to start. The supposedly Italian selection came with olives, salad leaves, sun-dried tomatoes and burrata cheese, each of which tasted fairly standard, yet the plate would have been more successful had the kitchen left it at that. The heartbreak ensued on first sight of the supposedly Italian cold cuts.

I understand that local constraints make it difficult for a small venue to produce a knockout charcutterie board. However, this selection consisted of anaemic-looking circular slices of turkey and salami, which tasted just as processed and unappealing as they looked. I was thankful I hadn’t visited with an Italian, and that there was more to come after this disappointing start.

The multistrada salad was a mix of red endive, pomegranate, walnuts and blue cheese. This pleasingly simple creation boasted a variety of textures and clean, crisp flavours. Although the pomegranate seeds were a touch woody, there was a great fruity depth to the balsamic reduction.

My friend wasn’t overly keen on the polipo scottato servitor con pure di patate al limone e pistachio (grilled octopus with lemon mashed potato and pistachio), but for me it was the pick of the starters. The octopus
was well cooked, with a crisply caramelised exterior yet soft and juicy inside. The mash was as smooth and creamy as you could wish for and the sprinkling of pistachio offered an extra edge. Rightly, my friend complained that it was a little salty, but it was still nicely executed, creative dish.

The spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino servitti con gamberi arrosto (spaghetti with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, chilli and marinated shrimps) had come recommended. In fact, during her explanation of this dish, the waitress had several times emphasised the use of extra virgin olive oil in the recipe. Unfortunately, she had also emphasised its spiciness, so I foolishly asked for a toned-down version. As pleasing as the fragrant herbs in this simple dish were, ‘less spicy’ had been translated as ‘not even slightly spicy’, so we missed out on the second dimension this dish may – or may not – have had.

Finally came my favourite of the dishes: gnocchia al quattro formaggi con crema di spinaci e noci (four-cheese gnocchi with spinach sauce and walnuts). It was elegantly presented, with smooth gnocchi and a rich depth to the creamy sauce.

The menu is reasonably priced – surprisingly so considering the contrasting expense of Ducati’s main output. For those reasonable prices, the food (for the most part) is also reasonably good. I’m not into bikes, or indeed trains, but if you’re into both, you’re in for a treat.

The bill (for two)
1x Large water Dhs12
1x Antipasti platter Dhs49
1x Salad Dhs49
1x Octopus starter Dhs69
1x Spaghetti Dhs59
1x Gnocchi Dhs55
2x Espresso Dhs24
Total (excluding service) Dhs317