Most people in DIFC will remember Roberto Rella. The short Italian man from Rimini who always wore sunglasses and greeted you with a big, charming smile was a regular at Roberto’s – his contemporary Italian dining concept that he launched in DIFC several years ago. He’s since left the joint and gone on to found an equally aspiring venture, TRE by Roberto Rella.
I visited the restaurant one weekday night. The Radisson Royal Hotel is a bustling stop on Sheikh Zayed Road and my friend and I waited in traffic until we reached a friendly valet man. Dubai is back, that’s for sure. Up the elevator (the restaurant spans the 49th to 51st floors of the hotel) — what we encountered when we arrived was a glisteningly sophisticated venue. The entrance led us straight to the bar – a small area that was very quiet that night. On our left, however, was a very long centerpiece table replete with high-backed golden yellow chairs and also a staircase at the very end so that you could literally walk up onto the table itself – was that it? Whatever was meant by the design it was eye-catching, creative and offered an eclectic ambiance compared with other Dubai restaurants.
But it was awfully quiet. Yes, it could be that it was a week night, but Roberto’s is always brimming with guests so much so that one must reserve hours if not days in advance. We sat quietly by the window overlooking a traffic-packed Sheikh Zayed Road until a most dapper Italian waiter came to our table to inform us of the specialty dishes on the menu. We decided to share a few starters and opted for the Quina Med made with Quinoa salad, Mediterranean red shrimps, and Tuscan artichokes (RR) 120 With black truffle; a zesty Giardino Misto of topinambur, seasonal baby salad, fennel, pearls of citrus; and a Tomino ‘Fumé’ comprising smoked eggplant, grilled tomino cheese, brown butter and white balsamic vinegar sauce – the latter was rich and delightful.
Fresh and flavorful were these dishes; they reminded me of Roberto’s but in a different ambiance all together. But the concept of the venue is still quite different. Spread out over three floors, the first floor, rather the 49th floor, is the social area comprising a small bar, the main dining area, there’s also a raw bar for Italian crudo dishes and a private dining room. Take the private lift up a level and you will find yourself on the 50th floor where there is a lounge bar, a DJ and a menu of Mediterranean-style small bites. The 51st floor is a cigar lounge that is also also sound-proofed providing an area for easy listening music and a more laid-back vibe. And so, this is why it is called TRE, which means “three” in Italian.
While the concept was quite innovative in Rella’s intriguing sort of way – during his 15 years in Dubai he also set up the BICE restaurants across the Gulf region. His style seems to be the obvious: good Italian food and designated areas for evening entertainment. It works very well at Roberto’s, but here the restaurant was a bit too quiet which we found slightly worrisome for such a new restaurant of caliber.
Onto the mains, I kept it simple and ordered a delicious Tartufo e Punte of Fettuccine pasta with Norcia black truffles and asparagus tips. I felt like I was back in Italy. Dessert came with a bang: Tiramisu TRE. This rendition of the classic Tiramisu came in a sphere of Mascarpone mousse with a black coffee liquid centre dipped in chocolate. Incredibly rich. With our palettes satisfied and stomaches full, we left TRE and ventured back out on the road. All in all a wonderful venue that lives up to the talent of its acclaimed restauranteur founder, but it needs a bit more people to soak up its wonderful Italian concept offering.
TRE by Roberto Rella is located at the Radisson Royal Hotel. Tel: +971 44047700