Could this become the best Italian in the capital?

If you love Italian food and have heard all the rave reviews about Mare Mare, you might be tempted to book a special evening there.

Resist the urge.

Yes, seriously. Although dinner at this alfresco restaurant at Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort restaurant will be good, it will also be missing one main ingredient – the view.

The aquamarine blue waters of the Arabian Gulf are so stunning, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were sitting in a small cafe on the Amalfi coast.

Helmed by the Italian chef Simone Federici, attention to detail here is evident right down to the delicate dots of lemon-infused mayonnaise on the side of our crudo di gambero rosso di Mazara. The opening of Mare Mare marks the introduction of this delicacy – raw, red prawns from Mazara del Vallo, located in southwest Sicily – to the UAE. And what an entrance. The rich, buttery imports are topped with truffle shavings, each bite like a soft sea breeze delicately melting on the tongue. Simplicity is key when it comes to crudi, or raw dishes, in Italy. And so it was with the tuna tartare with avocado, served alongside silky buttons of sour cream and set under a squid-ink- latticed cracker for crunch.

We jumped at the daily special: spaghetti alle vongole (Dhs95), served with meaty little vongole clams in the shell flown in from Venice. Generously proportioned, the dish is perfect for sharing and often a feature at Mare Mare, served family-style in an enameled, cast-iron pot and tossed lovingly table-side. Our othr main the tonnarelli all’astice was just as good, pairing homemade, slightly thicker tonnarelli pasta with Canadian lobster (half Dhs150; whole Dhs270). Again, the dish soared in its simplicity: a gentle mix of chilli, garlic, halved grape tomatoes and a touch of lemon zest.

Each of our pastas were elevated by the offered gratings of bottarga, a salty Sardinian delicacy prepared from dried fish eggs.

We couldn’t leave without a cup of tiramisu (Dhs45), an amber-coloured, espresso-infused creamy confection worth the trip alone. And Federici hit a home run with his smooth-as-silk semifreddo, paired with marron glace, or candied chestnuts, and topped with warm chocolate sauce with a hint of honey (price varies).

The clientele at Mare Mare range from well-heeled Italian residents to tourists nipping in off the beach or pool lounger for a pizza, which is already gaining a reputation as one of the best in the capital.

In the few short months since the resort’s launch, the open-air Mare Mare has proven so popular staff tell us they are working on a way to keep it open during Abu Dhabi’s hottest months. Here’s hoping they find one – it would be a shame to lose this gem for even a few months.

Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Sat 10am to 11pm. Tel: (02) 8114444.