Haute Eat: Roberto's

Newcomer among Dubai’s fine dining restaurants, Roberto’s charming Italian setting boasts an understated contemporary design mixed with vibrant Italian character. If you happen to be strolling through DIFC’s Gate Village on any given night you’ll be intrigued to find a host of visitors gravitating towards Roberto’s doors. But not to be mistaken by the attractive interior which boasts a bar area complete with a grand piano, two balconies and two large dining areas (for smokers and non-smokers) – large and forthcoming in typical Dubai style – my guest and I ventured inside to taste for ourselves what so many Dubians have been raving about.

My guest and I were immediately escorted towards the large dining area decorated in lavender and cream-colored furnishings complete with charming floral arrangements on each table. While not as slick as many of DIFC’s neighboring eateries, Roberto’s is subtly elegant and carries a charm of its own not regularly found in many of Dubai’s extravagant restaurants. The brainchild of Roberto Rella, originally from Rimini, Italy who opened the notorious BICE restaurant in The Hilton Dubai Jumeirah 12 years ago, the menu of his new eponymous restaurant features a lengthy list of classic Italian favorites combined with more contemporary options.

For starters, we chose the Oven Baked Egglant with parmesan, mozzarella, tomato sauce and fresh basil. Delectably smooth, fresh, savory and not too heavy, the dish was presented in a circular manner with the ingredients mixed well together rather than the typical mozzarella topping which comprises most eggplant parmesan dishes.  We also chose the Seasonal Leaves Salad with fennel and crisp celery which was once again, incredibly fresh and flavorsome. For the main dish or primo piatto as one would say in Italian, we shared a Baked Sea Bass made with Roman-style artichokes with marinated tomato and ratte potatoes. Once again served exquisitely, the sea bass was nicely firm, smooth and slightly sweet in taste; the roman-style artichokes were excellently marinated in white wine, garlic, lemon and herbs with the potatoes just crisp enough.  We also tried the Sorrentina-style pasta with fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella and smoked scamorza cheese and basil. Quite a cheesy sauce I must say, the delicate wood fired and smokey flavor of the scamorza juxtaposed nicely with the sweet taste and creamy texture of the mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil sauce. And of course, we couldn’t resist but sample one slice of the restaurant’s thin-crust vegetariana pizza boasting a wonderful combination of crispy and chewy crust.

Quite content after this défilé of delicious Italian dishes but desiring something sweet, we split a Chocolate Fondant with Raspberry Sorbet, Lemon Thyme and Yuzu Jelly and a White Truffle Ice Cream with Port Wine Sabayon. It’s hard to go wrong when combing chocolate with raspberry and this Chocolate Fondant did more than pull it off; the addition of bitter lemon made the dish all the more sweeter. The ice cream was smooth and rich with a slight edge from the addition of sweet Port wine.

Score, score and score. Roberto’s met every check on the list for a good meal out. Elegant ambiance, friendly and knowledgeable staff and delicious home-made Italian cuisine, Roberto’s tops the charts. What’s more is that on any given night you’ll get to meet the man behind it all; Roberto Rella can easily be spotted perusing the tables, greeting customers and making sure the food is okay. What more could one ask for?

Roberto’s, DIFC, Gate Village, +971 043860066 www.robertos.ae.