How can two restaurants (with the same name and menu) have such completely different vibes? I suppose visiting one at lunch, and one at dinner might have something to do with that… Perhaps I’ll need to revisit both properties at another time to be sure. 😉 For dinner at the Roberto’s DIFC property, I arrived early enough to try a glass off the weekday appertivo menu (well priced at AED30 for most of the drinks). While my prosecco was a bit flat and too sweet for my tastebuds, as I waited for my friend (dragged into a last minute meeting with a director), the bar staff took pity on me and proceeded to provide me with snacks during my wait. I received no less than a bowl of nuts, a selection of vegetables and my own beetroot arancini. Result!
During my wait, I had time to get a good look at the venue and was impressed by the number of ‘spaces’ carved into it. Indoors, outdoors, bar, lounge, dining room — Roberto’s literally offers seating for everyone in their cavernous establishment.
Once my friend arrived, we took a seat in the semi-enclosed Terraza and had a look at the menu. To start, I (naturally) had to order Burrata, AED105. And it was, as always, delicious. Honestly, if you are ever to dine with me, just expect I’m going to order this.
After finishing our creamy bowl of cheese, the Crudi bar was open (Crudo is only available from 7PM at both locations, which I’m still not sure exactly why — does raw fish become more delicious at this magic hour?), so we decided to give some of the options a try. I will note when I asked the waiter to suggest which of the plates was the most popular, I didn’t really receive an answer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Fortunately, I know which proteins I like, but I think it was a missed opportunity for a bit more engagement. We decide on the Tonno Battuto (Tuna tartare), AED75 and the Manzo Battuto (Beef tartare), AED82. My preference is for the tuna, which I wouldn’t hesitate to order again.
As we sip a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc (perhaps served a few degrees too warm), I realize the sun has gone down, and the moon has come up, and the restaurant is nearly packed. While many of the venues I visit are without crowds or lacking energy, on this Monday evening, Roberto’s gets more and more crowded. My dining partner and I both agree — this place is vibing. Back to the menu, feeling the mains are all a bit heavy, we decide to place an order for two pasta dishes to share, including Ravioli, AED95 and Spaghetti Neri (Squid Ink pasta), AED130. I have no complaints whatsoever with either dish, which arrive warm and perfectly al dente. Depending on your level of hunger, I would suggest splitting plates (so everyone can enjoy a maximum amount of delicious carbs).
My notes and suggestions are few: this is a dim interior (like, straight up dark). So, if you’re looking for that sort of thing, you’ve come to the right place. Also, the main dining room (the one that looks out onto the terrace) is open to smokers, so if that sort of thing bothers you, well, you’ll have to sit in the non-smoking dining room (lovely seating, but not as fantastic a view). Service was at the line of ‘where are they?’ to ‘letting us enjoy ourselves.’ Personally, I like the hands off approach (except when it comes to wine pouring), so I didn’t mind, but it’s not the usual approach for Dubai.
Reviewing above, our total would’ve clocked in somewhere around 400AED (inclusive of food and a bottle of sparkling water, but not including a bottle of white wine or the DIFC ‘bonus’ tax), which seems a bit on the high side.
So, how does Roberto’s rate against the other Italian establishments in Dubai? To be honest, among the best. While I’m not sure I would put Matto in the same category (as their approach is more casual in nature), Roberto’s definitely ranks above Frankie’s, Carnevale, or Ronda Locatelli (BTW, hey The Artisan, just give me a call and I’ll happily visit to see where you fit into the mix).
Would I go back? Yes, I would. My dining companion and I both commented multiple times at how ‘vibe-y’ the establishment was (especially for a Monday night). Give the ghost town ambiance that many of the DIFC restaurants can produce, there is definitely something special about this location.
Have you been to either of the Roberto’s venues? Do you have a favorite thing to order?