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La Grotta

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It might not quite qualify as a secret, especially considering it has been around for at least a decade, but Italian La Grotta is sufficiently off the beaten track to merit the description.

Located on the 10th floor of Al Khaleej Palace Hotel, a concrete tower of swooping, modernist curves, it is known by its band of ardent admirers as one of the finest Italian restaurants in the city – with a pleasingly unpretentious air that offers something of a throwback dining experience. There is, for instance, a glittering chandelier that highlights a hand-painted ceiling, there are live cooking stations and teal coloured, paisley-patterned furniture. Heinz Beck it ain’t.

The menu, though, is bursting with full-bodied authenticity. Yes, there is pasta and pizza, and the sight of the oven makes it always difficult to resist the latter, but a trip through the courses offers more imaginative fare.

Start with a typical Italian soup – the agreeably sharp minestrone with parmesan cheese, pasta, broccoli and cauliflower is a great option – which is paired with La Grotta’s prodigious bread basket. The mushroom risotto has just the right blend of creaminess in the sauce and snap in the rice, while the arancini, beef-stuffed rice balls, are practically a meal in themselves.

For mains, the mushroom-crusted fillet steak, with its blend of crisp Italian croutons, crunchy mushrooms and beautifully pink beef fillet, is a great way to sidestep the pizzas, should you so wish. The desserts may at this point feel like an unnecessary indulgence but the Pannacota and Orange Cream Brulee are worth the extra half-hour in the gym on the weekend.

La Grotta

Where:
Deira City Center Area
Dubai
AE

Telephone:

+971 4 223 1000

Website

With an extensive wine list and gracious service, it’s difficult not to warm to this place, which might lack in décor but makes up for in ambience.

Three dishes to try:

Gnocchi Sorrentina: Cooked in a rich tomato sauce, the dish derives its robust flavour from being finished in the oven with cheddar and parmesan cheese. The humble dumpling seldom tasted so good.

Peperoni pizza: Oddly good.  With onions, capsicum and gherkins, this peperoni pizza also has the nostril-flaring mustard paste, all of which is held together by a pancake thin base.

Pannacotta: Nice and dense and served on a bed of lemon slices for a bit of tang along with the sweet, this Italian dessert at La Grotto is delectably layered with berry compote.

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