Licensed Italian dining lands at this new JBR venue…

Eataly at the Beach has opened in one of Dubai’s culinary hotspots – Pavilion on JBR. Being in a brand-spanking new dining destination should help Eataly, but it has tough competition from neighbours that include Akiba Dori and La Mezcaleria. So we visited to see if it’s hearty and homely Italian food was enough to set it apart.

As the spot is so new, you need to get past the teething problems before you can have a bite. For us, the entrance was hard to find, as we could spot the logo outside, but struggled to get inside. So, if you see the signs but are about to walk on by – don’t.

You enter through the Eataly store, which looks like the kind of place you might find a character from a Nancy Meyers movie shopping. We recommend browsing through the top-quality Italian produce – pastas, pastries, oils and artisanal goods – which exude major farmer’s market vibes.

Eataly was founded in Turin, Italy in 2007, and has restaurants across the world. In Dubai, there are venues in Dubai Mall and Dubai Festival City. If you’re someone who turns your nose up at chains, what gives Eataly at The Beach the edge is its two outdoor terraces.

The terraces have impressive views overlooking the Arabian Gulf and Bluewater’s Ain Dubai. We were seated at the downstairs terrace, but had view-envy when we spotted the more intimate upstairs terrace later in the evening. Note to readers: ask for this.

The décor is all ocean-side minimalism – think off-whites, beige and wood panels – with a laid-back atmosphere. There are families and friends catching up, and the kind of open kitchen that would make Martha Stewart proud.

When in an Italian restaurant, of course, do as the Italian do. There is an excellent choice of Italian wines, especially by the glass. While the cocktail menu is on point with aperitivos, from a negroni to a spritz. We enjoyed the refreshing rosato cocktail (Dhs55) – rosé to non-Italians.

The food menu is packed with Italian classics. It not only has an extensive list of antipasti, pastas, risottos, pizzas, sharing boards and salads, but it also does a good job of catering to both meat eaters and veggies.

If you are someone who normally neglects starters, here they were the surprising hits. The caprese di buffalo (Dhs88), with buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomato, olives and green tomato broth, tasted as good as it looked. And the bruschetta tricolore (Dhs38), with bruschetta with roasted heirloom tomatoes, was simply fresh and flavourful.

When we ordered our pasta, we were asked how we would like it cooked – oddly enough, it’s not a common question in an Italian restaurant. Despite this, the tagliatelle al ragu bolognese (Dhs72), cooked with wagyu beef, didn’t quite hit our comfort food spot. Unfortunately, the heavy helping, which felt high in stodge and low in seasoning, could have done with being more al dente.

The desserts are the kind of classics and proportions that an Italian nonna would make. We tried the rich and creamy tiramisu (Dhs29) and the pistachio parfait with chocolate sauce and candied zesty orange (Dhs35). Even though each one was big enough for two, they still managed to be presented so elegantly.

While we might not return for a full three course meal, we would for the affordable sharing dishes, desserts and a bottle of wine. Oh, and for a spot of shopping.

Eataly at The Beach, Pavilion at The Beach – Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai, daily 11am to 1am. Tel: (0)4 561 1185.

Images: Provided