Mon, 01 October 2018
The cuisine of Italy is probably the world’s favourite of all, with staple dishes from the country being served across the Western and Eastern hemispheres. No wonder, then, that Bahrain, an island full of foodies and gourmets, has a great range of restaurants serving Italian fare to suit all occasions and budgets.
Italian food is often misunderstood as being laden with cheese, drenched with sauce and, more often than not, comprising only pizza, pasta and sometimes a stodgy risotto. If you experience some of the better-known Italian restaurants in Bahrain, you’ll find that there is so much more to the cuisine than what is peddled by global fast food chains.
Let’s start at the apex of superior dining that is Adliya. This locality is practically brimming with restaurants, many of which offer Italian fare. The eatery that deserves the first mention is La Pergola by Perbellini housed at the Gulf Hotel Bahrain. This is a recently relaunched dining spot, one that still holds old ground when it comes to excellent tastes and flavours of Italy.
In the same district is Oliveto, another revamped spot that is a firm favourite with islanders. It is the place to see and be seen, so to say. But what makes it special is that the chefs are dedicated to serving you authentic Italian food, just how it’s served back in their home country – simple and fuss-free, but big on taste.
When it comes to Cico’s Italian Restaurant, old is gold. This one has been around for decades, and is a family go-to. In 2005, it was adjudged the best restaurant at the International Hotel and Restaurant Awards in Madrid. Need we say more? Other popular Italian venues in the vicinity are Café Italia, known for its stunning décor, and Mino’s, for its honest food and prices.
On the cusp of Adliya and Umm Al Hassam sits Masso, nestled within the Palace Boutique Hotel. It claims to use the best ingredients available to plate up tantalising food. Be sure to try something that’s been fired by Big Bertha, the venue’s ironclad charcoal oven.
Moving further towards Umm Al Hassam, Roma is another one of those restaurants which is frequented by the older, experienced gourmets as well as young, photo-snapping crowds for its exotic ambience and true flavours.
On the far side of this locality lies Juffair – another hive of eateries. Cucina Italiana has a rustic ambience that reminds one of the era of The Godfather and serves a cracker of a pasta dish. The restaurant holds its Italian Masterchef competition annually — a much anticipated event. Across the road is the fairly new Trattoria, at Wyndham Garden Manama. The red, chequered table linen gives off an informal, jovial vibe and whets the appetite as well.
Heading north towards Manama, you come across Coral Bay Resort, which houses the most significant Italian venue in terms of being the very first of its kind in the country, in 1979 – La Taverna. Although in a new and more happening location, the restaurant has retained its charm with its typical décor and food.
Enter Manama, and you’ll see the iconoclastic Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay. Inside, Vento dishes out many types of fresh, homemade pastas, pizza bases and breads – all nothing less than five-star standard. You’re sure to be transported to an Italian coast with such authentic flavours and ambience. A few metres across is the World Trade Centre and its very modish Moda Mall. Here you’ll find Baci, the newer version of what used to be known as Bice. Try its weekday business lunch and all-you-can-eat Saturday brunch that has over 30 dishes to sample.
Zoom through Manama’s main spine, and you’ll encounter all-encompassing Seef. But wait, there’s picturesque Reef Island to explore before that. Pasquale Italian Restaurant has been touted to boast not only great food but also a splendid view of azure waters. Worth a weekend detour.
Stepping into Seef, there are so many gastronomic choices that’ll take you around Rome, Florence, Pisa and Naples. City Centre Bahrain presents the busy shopper Vapiano – a Euro-chic brand that has a special seasonal menu changing every two months. In the premises of Al Aali Shopping Complex are Nino and Fatto. Choose any one to walk out fully satiated with the best of Mediterranean flavours.
One of the biggest reasons Seef is so favoured is because it has The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain. This stalwart hotel chain’s Bahrain branch houses Primavera, where aficionados of Italian cuisine come to savour the magic created by two-Michelin-starred chef, Oliver Glowig, and new chef de cuisine, Vincenzo Nigro. The fare is a fine mix of classic and contemporary, which can be enjoyed inside or on the outdoor veranda overlooking the pool and Arabian Gulf.
If you’re towards the southern part of the island, and crave a good Continental bite, there’s Maison Mathis at El Mercado Mall in Janabiya that serves a variety of Italian dishes. The food has subtle foreign influences but is rooted in European culinary culture. Not far away, in Hamala, is Otto. This comparatively new establishment is known for its friendly staff and atmosphere, as much as for its delicious food.
If it’s a very special milestone you need to celebrate, one that deserves a romantic drive to Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa, Sea & Spa, then let it be at Fiamma. It has an antipasti bar, a trendy interior, and the heavenly smells wafting around are a small hint of the big flavours that await you.
While we’ve covered Bahrain’s mainland, let’s not forget Amwaj Islands. Rosso, in ART Rotana, is a well-lit and bright spot in which to savour fine Italian fare in view of a dancing fountain. At The Lagoon, Casereccio is a must-visit for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you’re specifically looking for good garlic bread and spaghetti bolognese, then these are absolute winners at Al Forno, which also offers sinful desserts and refeshing mocktails.
So many eat-alian options and so little time. Well, not if you start sampling them all right away!