04 275 2555 Umm Suqeim

Set in a picture-perfect spot next to the Turtle Lagoon at Jumeirah Al Naseem, this classic Italian restaurant is simply stunning.

From the romantic waterfront terrace, to the formal yet not-at-all-stuffy dining room, your experience here won’t be less than excellent.

Interiors are all crisp creams and golds, while a white grand piano and olive trees act as charming centrepieces. Dine in the evening and you’ll enjoy a chic, classy vibe with slick white cloths adorning the tables. Choose lunch and the mood –- and setting – is more casual, with bare wood tables and the water outside sparkling in the sun.

Ingredients are sourced from the Il Borro estate in Tuscany, bringing a thousand years of history to your meal. The produce is fresh, seasonal and authentic, and this is reflected in the quality of the exquisite dishes that arrive before you.

You can’t go wrong with anything from the menu devised by chefs Andrea Campani and Maurizio Bosetti. If you want a pizza, have a pizza (they’re great), there’s no standing to attention here.

To start we opt for the burrata, which is sublime, creamy yet light, with a handful of cherry tomatoes and basil leaves scattered on top to cut through any richness.

The polpo alla brace is a showstopper. Flavoursome and perfectly cooked, the tender pieces of octopus sit atop a delicate pyramid of purple and yellow potatoes.

We move on to a risotto with tomato and burrata (we just can’t get enough), which is rich and fragrant, and red prawn spaghetti, which we slurp up eagerly. The flavours shine through in every dish we try.

Il Borro is unfailingly busy, as well it deserves to be, which leads to a warm, lively buzz.

From the elegant décor to dishes the original Italian estate can be proud of, Il Borro ticks every box, in the best of ways.

The bill (for two)
1x burrata di Andria Dhs88
1x polpo alla brace Dhs88
1x red prawn spaghetti Dhs135
1x risotto alla crema di pomodoro burrata Dhs98
1x large water Dhs28
Total (excl service) Dhs437

The bottom line
Book, now.

Italian 04 888 3666 Downtown Dubai

Armani. Just the name alone creates images of classic, upmarket interiors, tailored clothing and high-end glamour. And that’s what you get at the Armani Hotel. It’s luxurious, it’s moody and it feels refined.

Armani/Ristorante is the same. It helps, of course, that it’s nestled at the base of the world’s tallest building and boasts stunning views of The Dubai Fountain.

This Italian is the ideal restaurant for a treat – and treat it will be, as have no doubt, along with high-end décor and a world-class setting comes comparable pricing.

As we’re settled into a massive cream leather banquette, we peruse the menu and tuck into the bread basket (an inventive and tasty selection, of which the goat’s cheese croissant is a highlight).

And despite being seasoned Dubaians, we can’t help but still be awed whenever the Fountain springs to life.

However, for a restaurant with such a slick appearance, the service, surprisingly, doesn’t quite match. At best, it’s haphazard, at worst disappointing.

What isn’t disappointing, however, is the food. We opt for burrata and giant prawns to start, both of which are excellent. Creamy burrata comes with chunks of juicy, sweet tomato, while the succulent prawns sit on a bed of vibrant crushed peas.

Everything is beautifully presented, as you’d expect from a brand renowned for aesthetics.

We move on to a delightfully tender beef cheek that falls apart at first sight of the knife and lobster spaghetti which is tasty, but a tad chewy (both the shellfish and the pasta).

A live singer is a nice touch, but the vibe never quite feels relaxed. But if it’s a special meal on a big occasion you’re looking for, then the food and setting won’t let you down, just make sure your wallet’s prepared.

The Bill (for two)
1x gamberi Dhs135
1x burrata Dhs110
1x lobster spaghetti Dhs200
1x guancia Dhs200
1x La Sfera Dhs100
1x still water Dhs35
Total (including service) Dhs780

The bottom line
Delightful dishes and top location.

04 455 9988 Palm Jumeirah

We reckon there are three different kinds of Italian restaurant. The old-school red chequered tablecloth kind (hello, Don Corleone); the funky type (we’re looking at you, MATTO) and the sleek, high-end spots (Cipriani, Roberto’s, Il Borro, The Artisan by Enoteca Pinchiorri). We can now add Quattro Passi to that last bunch.

It’s certainly a stylish place and knows it. However, some of the waiters could lay off the overbearing charm and instead listen to what you’re asking for (three waiters come to extol the virtues of the venue but none manage to bring a drinks list). Eventually one comes to the rescue and helps save the experience.

The menu will bring a smile to the faces of Italian food-lovers, though. Here we have a proper choice of antipasti, primi and secondi courses. Nothing seems too pricey for such a fancy dining room and what comes is pretty much very good in terms of presentation, texture and flavours.

Roasted octopus arrives looking like a work of art, with a touch of charring on the “polpo”, a swirl of green bean cream, tangy onion and crunchy corn.

Squid linguine is the highlight. The “pasta” is made from the squid itself and comes with passion fruit, potato and fish roe. It’s fishy, but the sweetness of the fruit balances it out nicely.

Mains of sea bass and lamb chops are also good. The amount of lamb on the latter is impressive, though some of the cutlets are a little overdone. And while the sea bass is cooked well, it’s a small portion so could do with a side to go with it.

The mandarin mousse dessert is a must, but, for a couple of scoops, the sorbet is overpriced.

While we can’t deny that Quattro Passi is impressive, sadly, we just don’t fall in love with it.

The bill (for two)

1x roasted octopus Dhs85
1x squid tagiatella Dhs80
1x seared sea bass Dhs185
1x roasted lamb chops Dhs185
1x mandarin mousse Dhs65
1x sorbet Dhs85
1x large water Dhs85
total (including service) Dhs770

The bottom line
A smart spot, but not overly special.

04 556 8820 Culture Village

It’s easy to judge a restaurant by the hotel housing it. It’s also lazy. For despite its location inside a high-end designer-associated hotel, Palazzo Versace’s Vanitas is actually very reasonably priced. In fact, the only thing even faintly inaccessible about dining here is the Palazzo itself, still surrounded by undeveloped land and unfinished roads. But put those orienteering skills into practise and get yourself over to Al Jaddaf. From the upholstery to the China patterns, Versace’s influence is abundant, but not overwhelming. This is an intimate and tasteful space, with natural light flooding in through French windows, which lead out to a spacious terrace overlooking the Creek. Seafood is a speciality for the Italian eatery, but there are enough vegetarian, pasta and red meat dishes on the menu to satisfy all. The garden-like orto starter, a vegan royale of broccoli topped with colourful, lightly seared vegetables, seaweed crisps and flowers, is full of soft and crunchy texture and sweet and smoky flavour, and is a perfect example of the freshness and simplicity championed here. Mains are just as pleasing – the savoury cacio e pepe (cheese and black pepper) encasing delicate ribbons of house-made pasta; the salty squid of the calamaro scottadito gently charred and moreishly squidgy. Well worth putting your navigation skills to the test for.

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