Italian cuisine is universally loved. Whether it’s a simple cacio e pepe and margherita pizza eaten with friends or an extravagant dish laced with caviar and truffle on a special occasion, Italian food can tick any, and all, boxes. With regional dishes spanning from rustic Tuscan stews to Neapolitan pizza or light, lemony desserts inspired by the Amalfi coast, Dubai’s best Italian restaurants will keep even the most ardent of foodies, and their taste buds, delighted. Fancy or fuss-free, but all with acres of style, here’s where to find the best Italian restaurants in Dubai.
Sparkling blue sea, charming pastel painted villages, soaring cliff sides – the Amalfi coast is one of the most picturesque spots in the world. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, millions of people visit the famous Italian coastline annually, soaking in the beautiful scenery of Positano, Amalfi, Ravello and beyond – as well as enjoying the light, fresh Italian food. And the closest diners will get to that salty Italian sea air in Dubai is Alici. Unquestionably, Alici is one of the prettiest Italian restaurants in Dubai, from whitewashed walls, to massive windows, high ceilings and stunning views across the sea to JBR, this Italian restaurant has all the holiday feels. And as the sister of one of the very best Italian restaurants in Dubai – Il Borro Tuscan Bistro – the food at Alici is delightful. The polpo alla griglia (a plump, grilled octopus tentacle) is a hit, as are the unctuous pasta dishes (the sea urchin version is a must-try) and fresh, citrusy desserts made with Amalfi lemons. And translating as anchovy, expect plenty of the salty little fish spotted through the menu. There’s also a regionally produced grape list, so if you’ve holidayed on the Amalfi coast and are looking for a reminder, immerse yourself into the menu and enjoy the journey.
Bluewaters Dubai, www.alici.com (04 275 2577).
Nestled in the Armani Hotel, Armani/Ristorante, like the rest of the luxury property in the lower floors of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, exudes elegance and style – it even smells stunning, and that’s before you’ve even entered the dining room. From the dimly lit interiors to the neutral colour palette, private circular banquettes and a terrace with stunning views of The Dubai Fountain, Armani Ristorante is chic, moody – and a knock-out date night spot. Service is slick, menu items are traditional with a twist and it has one of the best bread baskets in town. It’s one to splash out on if you’re looking to impress, and expect lashings of truffle. For a high-end and stylish dining experience, this is one of the best Italian restaurants in Dubai to try.
Burj Khalifa, www.armanihoteldubai.com (04 888 3666).
This longstanding DIFC restaurant attracts a chic crowd, and has nods to its rich and stylish Italian history. Stemming from the culinary family that includes Harry’s Bar in Venice, style-wise, Cipriani is minimal and chic, with crisp white table clothes, accents of navy and deep tan furnishings. Large monochrome photographs line the walls, it’s sleek and elegant, with a hint of old-school cool. And that’s the case with the dishes too, with traditional plates including steak tartare, veal Milanese, homemade cannelloni taking pride of place on the menu.
Gate Village, Building 3, www.cipriani.com (04 347 0003).
Il Borro Tuscan Bistro
Il Borro is a go-to restaurant for Italian food-lovers in Dubai. Whether it’s a group of friends catching up for lunch, an anniversary dinner or a casual aperitivo, any given night of the week you’ll find this spot bustling. And with good reason – the ingredients, some sourced from the Il Borro estate in Tuscany, are superb, rich with a 1,000-year history and the dishes expertly made to fit. Love burrata? You’ll find some of the dreamiest, creamiest in town. Sucker for octopus? The polpo alla brace will be one of the best cephalopod dishes you’ve tasted. And that’s before you even think about the pizzas or pasta. Nestled next to the turtle lagoon at Jumeirah Al Naseem, Il Borro is without doubt one of the best Italian restaurants in Dubai. Stuck for conversation? Spot one of the reptiles gliding by and discuss conversation. Although you’ll have to tear yourself away from daydreaming about that truffle pizza first.
Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel, www.ilborrotuscanbistro.ae (04 275 2555).
Il Ristorante Niko Romito
Luxury hotels in Dubai aren’t uncommon. But Bvlgari is one of the most famous fashion names in the world, so when it opened a resort in Dubai, ears of fashionistas around the city pricked up. The super cars parked outside tease you to what to expect at the restaurant. Coming from chef Niko Romito, of three-Michelin star restaurant Reale in Italy, this is modern fine dining, with fancy dishes that are interesting and elegant.
Bvlgari Hotel & Resort Dubai, Jumeirah, www.bulgarihotels.com (04 777 5622).
With some of the best Italian restaurants in Dubai located in DIFC, aperitivo-lovers in Dubai’s foodie district are spoiled for choice for post-work drinks and dinner. Marea is the latest to join the party, and comes from chef Michael White. With two Michelin stars in its native New York, the restaurant in Dubai spans over two floors, with a chic lounge downstairs and restaurant upstairs, all decked out in creams and tans. Marea is smart but not stuffy and the food is brilliant. Meaning “tide" in Italian, expect plenty of seafood dishes on the menu, while the pastas are unmissable for those not shy of carbs.
Gate Village 7, DIFC, www.marearestaurant.com (04 583 6366).
As with several fine dining restaurants in Dubai, Scalini is the relative of a fancy sibling abroad. Stemming from the borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, the Dubai outpost of Scalini housed in Four Seasons Resort Dubai Jumeirah, cosied up next to suitably high-end neighbours Verde, Nusr-Et and COYA. Scalini has a sunken garden, with plenty of lush greenery, giving a relaxed garden party-style vibe, and a modern interior – think whites, bright murals and neutral furnishings. Food is classic – with dishes such as linguine alle vongole, spaghetti all’astice, burrata, pizza al tartufu and scaloppini all gracing the menu – but all done with flair.
Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, Jumeirah, www.scalini-dubai.com (04 349 0068).
The courtyard-style terrace of this Italian restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton Dubai is possibly one of the most romantic around. Strung with twinkling hanging lights, surrounded by greenery and with a mellow vibe, Splendido is romantic, yet chilled. Set in the lush gardens of the luxury beach hotel, the atmosphere is laid-back, set away from any high, shiny skyscrapers of the surrounding JBR and Dubai Marina areas. With the ocean in the distance the terrace is the ideal place to sit in cooler weather, though the inside, with a high bar and white tablecloths, is the more formal approach. The menu is well put together, with the homemade pasta dishes and creamy risottos being a highlight.
The Ritz-Carlton Dubai, JBR (04 399 4000).
Roberto’s has been a favourite since opening in DIFC in 2012, and you’ll frequently find well-dressed DIFC patrons heading through the doors. There are deals on daily to take advantage of, from aperitivo to business lunches, and the relatively-recently refurbished terrace is sought after spot in winter for those wanting to admire the sparkling Burj Khalifa in all its 163-storey glory. Menu-wise dishes are classic and well thought out, using high quality ingredients, while there’s a dedicated vegan menu for plant-based diners, with dishes including risottos, smoked spaghetti and almond milk chocolate pudding. Tuna tartare, melanzane, panzanella and vongole are found elsewhere on the menu, as well as pizzas, risottos and a fish counter.
Gate Village 1, DIFC (04 386 0066).
Social Heinz Beck
Another top Italian restaurant in Dubai with a chef of a Michelin-starred restaurant at the helm, though not always in the kitchen, this fine dining spot on the Palm Jumeirah serves excellent, creative dishes. Décor is minimal, with the glass fronted open kitchen the showpiece of the dining room, allowing for front row viewing of the delicate plating. There’s also a charming terrace for winter. Dishes from the European chef include intricate pastas and grills – this isn’t a pizza joint – and service is slick and friendly.
Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, www.waldorfastoria3.hilton.com (04 818 2222).
Keep it casual
Translating in Italian as “enough!” BASTA!, as the name suggests, is one of the best Italian restaurants in Dubai when it comes to eating your fill of traditionally delicious food. A huge, high and airy space, there are also views over the twinkling Dubai Water Canal through massive floor-to-ceiling windows, adding a low-key romantic vibe to the industrial-style décor. There’s also a large mural of Sophia Loren on the brick wall, reminding diners of the merits of pasta (“everything you see I owe to spaghetti”, as the Hollywood star famous declared). And when it comes to pasta, there’s plenty of choice on the artisanal menu, from rigatoni cacio e pepe to lasagne.
Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Dubai, Business Bay, www.basta-dubai.com (04 512 5522).
One of the best Italian restaurants in Dubai for many years, Bussola covers all bases. Whether it’s for a fancy meal in the fine dining area of the restaurant, an aperitivo on the spacious terrace or a traditional pizza on the upper deck, Bussola has it all. Set adjacent to the adults-only pool at The Westin, Bussola is a charming place for a sparkling sundowner with views over the sea. Keep it casual and opt for one of the perfectly blistered wood-fired pizzas, heaped with fresh mozzarella, tangy tomatoes and fresh basil for a chilled-out date night dinner.
The Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, www.bussoladubai.com (04 511 7373).
Shopping experiences in Dubai are nothing ordinary, and that to mall dining, too, where it’s certainly not limited to a greasy slice of pizza or tepid bowl of noodles. And when foodie shoppers head to the Fashion Avenue in The Dubai Mall, restaurants, as you’d expect, take things up a notch on the designer belt. GIA – which is an arancinis throw away from top labels including Burberry, Cartier and Valentino – is a chic a spot as you’ll find for a mid-shopping meal. As well as a menu of classic dishes from burrata to parmigiana di melanzane and tagolini al tartufu, GIA also has a superb setting, housed next to The Dubai Fountain – meaning diners will be treated to a side of Nessun Dorma with their gnocci. The restaurant is a sleek spot, with interiors designed by Hecker Guthrie and based on 1950s films and architecture, while there’s a spacious terrace, too.
Fashion Avenue, The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 234 9986).
Meaning “crazy” in Italian, MATTO in Business Bay’s Oberoi hotel may not be full-on wild parties, but it is one of the more playful Italian restaurants in Dubai. All stripped-back interiors and exposed fixtures, with retro Italian adverts on the walls and a wall of leather banquettes, it’s laid-back and casual, and if you drip a spot of pomodoro sauce on the table here it won’t require a swift change of a crisp white cloth – just wipe it off the dark wood table and turn your attention back to the pasta. If you’re looking for a relaxed date night or a meal with friends then MATTO will hit the spot – as will the pillowy stonebaked pizzas. Plus, with a scattering of deals throughout the week, expect an Italian meal that won’t leave you smarting.
Oberoi Dubai, Business Bay, www.mattodubai.com (052 605 3535).
When the chef of one of the most famous Italian restaurants in the world sets up shop in a city, even those who aren’t avid readers of the Michelin guide sit up and take notice. Torno Subito comes from Massimo Bottura – the name behind Osteria Francescana, a restaurant that’s twice claimed the top ranking on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list. But not only is the chef known for his Modena restaurant – and appearances on Chef’s Table – he’s also making waves in the industry for his Food for Soul initiative – tackling food wastage and social vulnerability. The menu at Torno Subito is filled with classics, and works to reduce waste where possible, with quirky, modern twists to dishes. The restaurant at the trendy W Dubai – The Palm is eclectic and quirky when it comes to styling, too. From the monochrome, sharp-lined entrance way complete with Massimo’s visage to the hanging filament lights, bubble-gum pink walls and bright green mismatched chairs to the pop-art style bathrooms – Torno Subito is fun and retro, a homage to 1960s Italian Riviera. In winter the cool terrace stretches out along the front of the popular party hotel, boasting stunning views across the beach and sea to Dubai Marina.
W Dubai the Palm, Palm Jumeirah, www.tornosubitodubai.com (04 245 5555).