Little Italy

Stodgy Italian fare with an Indian influence in Karama Reviews

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My date and I wanted to love Little Italy, but we weren’t expecting to. It’s an endearing place: a vegetarian Italian restaurant in the heart of Karama that, among other things, can conjure up Jain food upon request. It was such an odd, lovable concept and, when we entered the restaurant, we wanted to love it just that bit more. The decor was at once sleek and cheesy. Curved wooden sculptures hanging overhead gave the place an air of sophistication that was promptly sucked back by photos of Italian landmarks imbedded a foot under the floor and covered with a pane of glass. My companion was also enamoured by the laidback, friendly staff who happily didn’t hang over our every move.

The menu made some strides towards authenticity, including a range of risottos (described as ‘a special type of brown rice’, wood-oven pizzas and zuppe (Italian for soup). Every now and then the chef would throw in an Indian version, as was the case with the Goa pizza. We started off with the spinaci salsa, described as toast served with delicately blanched young spinach tossed in garlic butter. The reality was that it was garlic butter seasoned with a bit of spinach. It was a reasonably pleasant dish, if you choose to forget about your cholesterol count. We later dipped into the funghi alla trapanese, mushrooms roasted with garlic, lemon and parsley. These shrooms weren’t subtle, but they were juicy and meaty, giving off a powerful explosion of garlicky zest. We enjoyed them, but these also arrived sweating in olive oil.

The mains let us down. The ultimate pizza, which I ordered in the hope it would be loaded up with vegetables, was begging to be blotted with a napkin and, despite the variety of produce advertised in the menu, only sported a Spartan smattering of peas, mushrooms and onions. My date’s risotto al forno arrived swimming in an over-salted tomato sauce, and was past al dente.

We opted out of dessert. Not that I wasn’t curious, but the meal was so unbearably heavy that we couldn’t possibly have fit it in. We don’t admire the concept of Little Italy any less – it’s still pleasant to see the neighbourhood’s vegetarians have options outside of curry shops. Unfortunately, the venue almost seems to view its meatless status as a burden, as something to be covered up with rich, buttery sauces. Instead, the place should recognise the advantages of serving strictly vegetarian Italian fare. There is definitely an opportunity here to present light, fresh produce in an appetising way. We only wish it was an opportunity that the kitchen would seize.

The bill (for two)
1x Small Masafi water Dhs3
1x Funghi Dhs29
1x Spinaci salsa Dhs24
1x Risotto al forno Dhs24
1x Ultimate pizza Dhs36
Service Dhs13
Total Dhs139

By Daisy Carrington
Time Out Dubai,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.


  • Location: Karama, Dubai
  • Tel: 04 397 7881
  • Travel: Trade Centre Road

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Little Italy On The Map

User reviews

  • Users voted this restaurant most suitable for: Family friendly

User reviews:

Posted by: Michel on 01 Mar ' 13 at 10:42
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

We had a get together with some vegan and vegetarian friends and we were all very impressed! Firstly because in dubai its hard to find vegan friendly restaurants, from a first glance at the menu there seemed to be cheese on everything so I asked where the vegan items were, and they were well versed with the menu, pointing out options that hadn't caught my eye at first. They also charted down all the vegan options to make it easier for the entire group. They were also kind enough to offer to modify any non vegan dish that could possibly be made vegan. We tried the avocado dip, the bruschetta, the fried mushrooms and the grilled mushrooms for starters. They were all fantastic options, really tasty and beautifully presented. I had the aglio e olio pasta which was great! I managed to sneak a taste of their arrabiata, and the tomato and basil pastas which were both great too! I was very impressed with this rustic italian looking gem! So glad I found it and will be going back again! It was great going to a restaurant and not have the staff looked confused when I ask if they have vegan options :)

Posted by: Hill Billy on 27 Jan ' 13 at 16:48
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Their pizza's and mix sauce pasta's are Lip smacking!! Amazing Concept in general the whole Veggie Italian Thingy..So many vegan Options too...Docintown is right u do need to know how to order food..unless ur humble enough to ask the friendly servers for assistance...Don't know bout Y'all but im Definitely Diggin This!!.. More Power To u Little Italy!!

Posted by: DoctorInTown on 03 Dec ' 12 at 08:05
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

A very okay-ish restaurant in Karama. Though italian, you would hardly feel it until the food is served. Food was just average and probably my mum can cook the same at home. Few side dishes have been listed in the main course so an in-depth knowledge in Italian is required to be able to understand and select the appropriate dish. Serving is average again. Good for trying out once.

Posted by: Anupama Lulla on 01 Nov ' 12 at 11:06
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

I wanted to take my mother for a nice meal and decided to visit Little Italy, situated in karama.
The service was bad and it is a total rip off.
Try asking for some parmesan cheese and you will see it costing you 9dhs on the bill.
It is standard for every italian rest. to provide fresh black pepper and parmesan at no extra charge. I was shocked!!!
In addition to this, we had to keep looking for a waiter... 3 different poeple waited at our table.
i have only one word for this place -- TERRIBLE

Posted by: Foodie in Dubai on 04 Jun ' 12 at 20:07
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

I have to say, the new Little Italy is definitely a shocker.
I remember the old Little Italy being a tad bit understaffed with demotivated workers and definitely, poor in service. As we all imagined, the restaurant finally shut down and didn't re-open till a few weeks back. We were eagerly waiting to see what was going to happen to the "New Little Italy" and finally decided to give it a try just yesterday to celebrate a friend's birthday. Walking in, it didn't feel like the old restaurant at all. It gave a very airy spacious feel with a touch of Italian finishes- the ambience (especially the lights, the paintings and the green) was very warm, and welcoming and so were the staff who greeted us with an overwhelming smile. We immediately felt like we were at home. The service was quick, the food was great and the waitresses were nice. When we ordered for a cake that we brought in for my friend, the manager put on the "Happy Birthday" song and the service crew came to us singing loudly and making it a perfectly memorable birthday for my friend, who was embarrassed and yet so happy! They even opened a Non Alcoholic Champagne bottle for her and it was a perfect celebration.
I must say though, when we were seated, there were 9 other tables that were occupied with other guests and the staff were just about managing to keep everyone happy. I'm pretty sure that during the weekends when they are packed, they may be finding it hard to keep everyone happy and when I asked the manager that, he politely replied "Mam, we have just opened and some of our service staff are still on their way from India" - Let's hope they keep up to the great start they've begun with.

All in all, we had a pleasant evening and a fantastic birthday celebration. It's great for us pure vegetarians to have options outside of the usual Indian cuisine. Especially a restaurant with Jain options!
To all the users above who have hated the old Little Italy, I insist- you must visit the new one!

Posted by: khatija on 15 Jul ' 10 at 11:44
  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

well i don't know about others...but i love the pizza's served at little italy. The thin crust pizzas are perfect with the right amount of cheese,veggies and spices unlike other pizza joints... The pizzas are light on stomach and they don't make you feel unpleasant at the end.
I love the place and will continue going there with my friends.

Posted by: john on 03 Jul ' 10 at 10:46
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

i totally agree with venkats review, except for the fact that the pasta I ordered for had no salt at all.
i would like to add - i visited this place on a friday evening. the waiters made every effort to keep every customer satisfied. it was however evident that the restaurant is understaffed and the waiters are being overworked. The owner needs to be kind to the waiters.
the food is not worth even half the price mentioned in the menu.
I wouldnt visit this restaurant even for a free meal.

plenty of room for improvement.

Posted by: Venkat on 29 Jul ' 09 at 07:12
  • Best for: Brunch served
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

I think you have been quite kind to them in your review. The food was outlandish. It was too oily or buttery and salty too. The cook is not trained by Italians and its some kiind of desi cross between home made pizzas and Italian fare. Howevr we dared to try even the pasta and it was outrageous. My maid make better penne pasta with a heallthy smattering of good quality mozarella cheese.

The concept or idea of attracting Indian veggie families towards Italian is good and singular...rathr it stands out. But they shud be able to get the people back and this will not happen. To add to this we went over the wekend and the crowds were not managed. I ened up having a fight for seat with another Indian male who wanted the same seat for his family. I literally pushed my rear isde into the seat and refused to budge. All in all - not a pleasant evening.

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