Hidden Italian Gems in Dubai

One of the more frequent questions we get asked as part of our daily job is where would you recommend for dinner?  It is such a difficult question to answer in Dubai with so much choice!  Plus it depends on personal choice and preferences, what you feel like eating or generally where you want to go.  But we can't resist sharing our opinions

Today we are starting a series of Hidden gems around Dubai.  Think of it as the CitiSpi version of Waterstone recommends. We are basing our choices on great food at a great price.  Who doesn't want that?  In this first blog we are focusing on great Italian food around Dubai that we have tried!  Today it is all about homemade pasta, soft cheeses and succulent roasts.  See if you agree with us!


Solo Bistronomia

Solo is a home-grown Italian Restaurant at Raffles Hotel.  It brings a true taste of Italy with a vibrant and buzzy atmosphere.  We love the decor as it is fresh and modern and particularly the authentic Italian wood-fired oven centrepiece in the dining area.   Chef Doxis Bekris helms the open plan kitchen, preparing delicious homemade cuisine inspired by Italian regions from Lombardy and Tuscany, to Campania and Sicily. All of the dishes, from the bread, right through to the sauces, pastas and pizzas, are freshly made in-house.  And you can tell.  

We love love love the fresh burrata, candied tomatoes bruschetta with smoked yellow tomato salsa, the fresh linguine with pesto and the just baked meringues with cherry for dessert.  Everything about this restaurant is fresh and delicious.  The awards support what we are saying: Time Out Best Newcomer 2014 to Best Italian 2016, Solo is impressing a lot of people.  From Monday to Saturday there's Apperitivo with a choice of two vintage drinks with free flow antipastis from 5pm-8pm for AED120.    For reservations call 04 324 8888.  


Al Fresco 

Found in a discreet corner of the Crowne Plaza Dubai,  Al Fresco is understated in every way.  The decor is simple and the cooking is very much live as you breathe in the Italian aroma from pizza or pasta or sauces or just bread, yum!  Chef Gabriele is a young, ambitious and very talented Head Chef who says he wants to bring a spirit of happiness in his cooking.  He takes his inspiration from his Grandfather who taught him a lot about southern Italian cuisine.  We have been to Al Fresco several times.  A testament to his vision but also his talent taking fresh ingredients and creating taste sensations.  

Where do we begin with the menu?   Red mullet with risotto? Agnolotti ravioli filled with buffalo mozzarela, parmesan cream with truffles?  Or a team favourite roast lamb cooked for 5 hours with low temperature that makes the meat extremely soft, served with polenta and fresh rosemary.  It is one of the best dishes in Dubai in our opinion! They offer a 2 course business lunch for AED85 during the week too with water, tea and coffee. Definitely worth a visit!  Call 04 33 11111 to book!

al fresco lamb shank.jpg

Don Corleone

You might have heard of this restaurant?  The Metropolitan Hotel Dubai is one of the city’s oldest hotels and was knocked down in 2013 to allow the construction of Al Habtoor City.  The Dubai institution moved down the road and has now reopened in a new location.  And wisely the hotel retained its hero venue Italian restaurant Don Corleone lives on.  

The red and white checkered table cloths are famous and the trattoria serves up classic and authentic family Italian dishes. It doesn't pretend to be anything other than great Italian food. Fresh pastas, pizzas and salads with antipasti.  One of our CitiSpi team originally went to the restaurant in the late 1980's and returned this week.  They enjoyed a meal reminiscent of then and thought it was just as good if not better in the new menu.  Bruschetta, caprese salad, antipasti, pizza and wine all with great service.  

And if you go on a Monday you can enjoy a glass of wine and choice of pasta or pizza for only AED75.   Call 04 523 8825 to book.


Cucina Dubai

This restaurant was recommended to us by a fellow foodie.  Like us they love great dishes made with fresh ingredients and ensuring authentic flavours.  Chef Mauro is famous in certain parts of Dubai. He wants to share with everyone, the classic Italian pantry staples and get inspired with practical tips and ideas on how to get the most from these delicious ingredients. The menu at Cucina is well rounded.

The team are enthusiastic and eager to please.  They are very lucky to work with Chef Mauro.  He delivers caprese with 5 different types of tomato.  Minestrone soups with the freshest of vegetables and our favourite spinach ravioli in ricotta cheese with creamy butter, sage and parmesan.   

Every month Chef Mauro holds a free monthly discovery lessons on Italian cuisine followed by a special menu with dishes that highlight the monthly ingredient.   Held upstairs in the JW Marriott Dubai restaurant he explains in english and italian while cutting fresh pasta, cooking ravioli from chestnuts, truffle sauces and the most delicious Italian panacotta.  It is in Deira and worth the trip if you live around Dubai. For more information, call 04 607 7977 or contact jwdubai.dining@marriotthotels.com.


Casa Mia

I think that you are starting to get the theme with our favourite Italian restaurants in Dubai.  Great food, rustic environment and reasonably priced.  Our last choice today is no exception.  Casa Mia at Le Meridien Dubai creates beautiful Italian food.  The restaurant is like stepping into a trattoria in Siena or on the Almalfi Coast.  A meal of carpaccio, burrata with fresh basil and lasagne, all fabulous.  And for dessert you cannot miss the gelato.  It is so nice to taste authentic gelato as the finale of an Italian meal.   Another favourite of ours is the Selezione Di Affettati Serviti con Sott'Oli Italiani.  Cold cuts with pickled oils - perfect as appetizer or a shared starter.  The prices for starters are from AED40 and main courses around AED100.  Why not mix business with pleasure every lunchtime to entertain clients, hold informal meetings or treat your friends.  AED150 weekday lunchtimes 12.30pm–3pm.  For bookings call Le Meridien Dubai at 04 286 8949.


And there you have it!  Our Hidden Gems of Italian restaurants around Dubai.  There are many more but we have enjoyed these specifically and in many cases visited more than once.  With the choice in Dubai, we believe that this is a testament to the quality of food and restaurants we chose.  Let us know what you think?  Have you tried the Lamb Shank at Al Fresco or the Pesto Linguine at Solo?  We also love to hear your comments.  Next week we are still debating on Indian restaurants versus French!  Indian cuisine is a current leader!  Have a great week.


The CitiSpi Team