It wants to be your favourite neighbourhood Italian restaurant, but will it succeed?

If there’s one thing Dubai does not lack, it’s Italian restaurants. Seemingly unafraid of the competition, five star resort Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa opened La Strega. Its ambition? To become your favourite Italian eatery in Dubai Marina. An impressive goal, which tempted us to try it out.

With wooden flooring, soft suspended lighting, and earthy décor, finished with rattan chairs and marble table tops, the interior is warm and inviting, without being too try-hard. It’s the type of venue where you could go casual or for a mid-range date night.

The menu is perfectly uncomplicated, loosely split into antipasti, hot appetisers, homemade pasta, pizza and mains.

We ordered some of their frittura di mare (Dhs55), essentially a metal hamper cradling a good portion of dried fried shrimp, calamari and artichokes, with a pot of lemon mayonnaise. It arrived hot, and each piece was light, thin and crisp. The balance of garlic to mayo was spot on, and quickly the basket of goodies disappeared. The perfectly executed prosciutto & bufala (Dhs90) demonstrated that La Strega, quite rightly, puts a lot of effort into sourcing authentic ingredients. It was simple, uncomplicated and very tasty.

Sadly, the pizzas themselves didn’t quite deliver. We ordered the porcini and patate (Dhs98), a combination of mushrooms, bacon, cheese and potatoes – lots of sharp, salty flavours – and it was merely OK. The doughy crust was too thick and wide, and there wasn’t enough of the good stuff. A couple of solid initial bites and then the rest of each slice was a bit bland.

The linguine vongole (Dhs98) was better. We loved the homemade pasta, which was thick and slightly al dente, but we’d remove the broccoli and breadcrumbs to make it lighter and fresher dish.

It was too heavy a meal for us to get through to desserts but we’ve heard folks waxing lyrical about the cannoli, rich in pistachio and ricotta.

Is it our favourite Dubai Marina Italian eatery? Not yet, no. But the excellent starters, lauded canolli, and wonderfully-friendly service give us hope…

Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, daily 7pm to midnight. Tel: (04) 316550.

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