Is this casual Italian restaurant JLT’s new hidden gem?

So many Italian restaurants promise to serve up authentic homemade fare yet end up falling short, slathering their spaghettis in sauce and mangling their margheritas. So can little Via Vita, a cosy Italian in JLT, deliver?

It certainly looks the part, with its rustic decor complete with a centrepiece olive tree. A wood-fired oven sits at the back of the open-plan restaurant and is clearly the chef’s secret weapon.

All bread is baked fresh daily, and a ‘Bruschetta Bar’ offers up some tasty alternatives to your standard starters. Out of the selection we sampled, the bruschetta with roasted pumpkin and goat cheese (Dhs27) was hands-down the pick of the litter. An unconventional choice, but nonetheless delicious.

A shared white pizza funghi (Dhs43) was further proof that the oven was top-notch, combining a crunchy crust and wild mushrooms with a gooey mix of taleggio and mozzarella cheese.

While the ability to competently bake bread is important in any good Italian eatery, the real taste test comes down to the pasta. Thankfully, Via Vita excels here.

A simple dish of al-dente paccheri with slow-cooked beef chunks and tomato in a rich ragu sauce (Dhs49) was spot on, and by not trying to wow with an overabundance of sauce, it did precisely that – wow us. The same was true of the penne with smoked eggplant and ricotta Siciliana style (Dhs36). Again the dish wasn’t attempting to reinvent the wheel, it simply let the flavours of the smoky eggplant and goats cheese do the talking.

A pan-fried cod filet with olives, capers and tomato (Dhs49) closed up the mains, with the fish tenderly flaking apart on the fork and the saltiness of the olives and capers giving the dish a pleasant bite.

For dessert we were presented with a large (and we mean LARGE) slice of tiramisu (Dhs24) that at first seemed like it would be unsurmountable, but was so light and airy (as a good tiramisu should be) that we couldn’t help but wolf the whole thing down and wish for seconds.

It’s difficult to find fault with Via Vita, particularly considering the reasonable prices of its well-crafted menu. It hits both the “authentic” and “homemade” touchstones that so many other restaurants only claim to, and does it effortlessly.

Cluster V, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai, daily noon to 11pm. Tel (800) 84284282. Taxi: Cluster V, JLT.

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Images: Supplied