Where fun, flavours and family meet under one roof…

On a modest corner of Mina Zayed, resembling a run-of-the-mill eatery, sits Marmellata. That is until you walk in, take a whiff, and are greeted with a poster on the wall that quips, ‘perfect is boring.’

Images: supplied

A hidden gem on Abu Dhabi, nay, the UAE’s competitive pizza circuit, Marmellata is the brainchild of father-son duo, Raj and Sebastian Dagstani, created in 2019. While they naturally had to pivot to online orders and even endure a brief closure of store operations when the pandemic came calling, it’s back to business for this duo and co.

When we head down to check out Marmellata 2.0, we can see why their name translates to ‘jam’ – because they’re easily the busiest business at Mina Zayed. The area is otherwise rather quiet, which we can attest to the humid, energy-sapping mid-July temperatures. When you pull the doors open to Marmellata, you feel simplicity, energy and action: think royal blue aprons and napkins, white uniforms and porcelain. The restaurant is simple but innovative, using wooden coins for advertising over regular business cards.

Owner Raj is still in the kitchen despite the restaurant’s success, and swiftly serves us a special mixed focaccia (Dhs40). And while it’s quite the handful, every bite feels like we’re sinking our teeth into a delicate cloud. Marmellata’s specialties pack unparalleled freshness and focus on local sourcing where possible, with ingredients like mushrooms grown in the local desert and figs from Liwa.

The owner isn’t kidding when he says, “Our food is New York-inspired, but Abu-Dhabi style.” He continues, “Pizza is often thought of as a purely Italian food. But the truth is, southern Italian food came through North Africa. It was the food of the Arabs and was cooked by Italians, so it’s more of a Mediterranean food.”

The restaurant is a beehive of activity, hosting guests at eight tables indoors and several more on the outdoor patio, perfect for the cooler months. While it originally only served single slices of pizza, operations swiftly expanded, and their menu now revolves around five main pizzas (priced at Dhs75 each) and a selection of focaccias.

Marmellata really shines in the topping department. Our order of a large pizza and a mixed focaccia was packed with striking ones like turkey, onion, roasted peppers, fennel pollen and our personal favorite, truffle honey, which appeared in a flash amidst the smorgasbord of flavors with every bite. To keep the mercury-soaring temperatures at bay, we were served chilled glasses of house-made lemonade, which packed a welcome hint of basil (Dhs25 for a 600ml bottle).

While these are tastebud-igniting, palate-pleasing combinations that will linger with you long after you’ve said goodbye, Marmellata’s secret ingredient is crystal clear – caring, enthusiastic staff who delight in feeding their customers.

“See you soon Inshallah, brother”, Raj calls out to a beaming customer exiting the business. At the crux of it, it’s all about family here.

Verdict: Marmellata is a brilliant family business, run with heart and work ethic.

Marmellata, Shop 25-A, Mina Zayed, 5pm to 8.30pm Weds to Sun. Tel: (0)55 802 9355. marmellatalove.com