Frankie's Italian: Non mi piace.

Frankie's Italian: Non mi piace.

Frankie’s is one of those ubiquitous properties that has been around for ages…that I haven’t visited (oops!).  While I’ve dined at the property at the Fairmont in Abu Dhabi (and was whelmed), with an invitation, I thought I would go in with an open mind — after all, Frankie’s hasn’t been around this long without doing something right.

As you might be aware, there are a lot of Italians running around in our city at the moment, and many restaurants are teaming up with these decorated chefs.  Frankie’s nabbed Andrea Ribaldone (who has a Michelin star), who worked in conjunction with the head chef, Giampaolo Pintore.  Also, a bit of a spoiler alert, this won’t be the only Italian themed post turning up on my blog in the coming weeks (I’ve got two more to go).

The meal consisted of four (very Italian) courses including calamari, risotto, veal and fruit compote.  Fortunately for me, my dining companion (because of allergies) was able to sample some dishes off of the regular menu.


Unfortunately, I think the meal was never destined to be a good one.  My list of woes?

  • While I was happy to try the Italian set menu (available for a short time through November 16th), I found the value for money to be significantly off.  This is mainly due to the very limited pour on the accompanying wine (which was usually served late or after the course had been served).  For ten years of living in the Middle East, I can think of only one other restaurant that has such a small wine pour.  If this is the standard amount, there is no way I can recommend my readers to visit.  For a total of AED525, I believe a guest should at least feel some sort of ‘buzz’ from the alcohol portion.
  • Inconsistent service / pacing.  While I’ve been fortunate to have dined at some of the best restaurants in the UAE recently, I didn’t realize what a difference these venues offered versus Frankie’s.  While our server was attentive, polite and professional, I always appreciate a bit of engagement or involvement.  Further to that, the meal seemed at first rushed and then strangely paced.  If a server can learn to read the guests, then there won’t be any strange moments of ‘wow, why is our next course here already?’ ‘Where is our wine?’  It also would’ve been nice to meet the chef!
  • A menu I really did not enjoy.  For me not to finish two courses in a four-course meal is a pretty rare occasion.  The risotto was unfortunately strangely bland, and a few of the rice kernels were uncooked (leaving me to crack down on a tooth – twice!).  I found the temperature of the veal with tuna (why is this a combination?) to be very off-putting (neither warm, nor cold).  In the same dish, the sodium levels and texture were equally not my preference.  Finally, the last ‘pairing’ of too bitter (and yet too sweet) yuzu tea (?!) was a terribly strange way to end the meal.  With food, I do realize that this is completely my opinion.  I’m certain there are others who will enjoy the dishes.
  • An overall bad demographic fit.  While I know the restaurant cannot undergo a complete overhaul of the fit out, I found the interior to be more ‘1990s cruise ship’ than ‘modern restaurant.’  Overall, it felt like a place for parents or grandparents and not a place I would return to as a 36-year-old.  While I’m sure the design might be a nod to the original establishment, I simply found it dated and not adding to the overall experience.
  • As I feel bad about my disconnect, I will admit that the burrata is worth stopping in for.  Side note: Did you know most of the burrata in the UAE is produced in Sharjah? I didn’t!  The burrata served at Frankie’s is imported (and is heavenly!).
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I do wish I’d had a better experience, but I just can’t see myself returning (never mind the headache of Marina traffic — even on a Sunday!).

A further point on the Italian cuisine world summit, I think it’s great when two cultures want to come together and share things (especially food!), however, this seems like a big missed opportunity.  While I was vaguely aware of the Italian summit, I’d heard nothing of the kitchen takeovers taking place (that are now almost concluded).  Although, to be fair, getting me out in the middle of the week for AED500 per person plus is a relatively tall order.

Have you been to one of these dinners?  What did you enjoy?

 A to Za’atar was a guest of Frankie’s and the Italian World Cuisine Summit.  Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.
Frankie's Italian Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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