Sometimes food can get too fancy for the sake of it in Dubai – so simply letting good ingredients shine can land a restaurant lots of friends.
For big but atmospheric Italian newcomer Luigia – a recent addition to the JBR dining options – the above certainly seems to apply. From starters to dessert, our début visit delivered a fresh vibe with dishes both familiar and less so.
There’s plenty of competition in Dubai, but this place occupies a large and prominent position inside the 2017-opened Rixos Premium Dubai. Rich red walls and thousands of tiny lights – including a sign baring the restaurant name – give an unlikely intimate cabaret club feel in what could be a cavernous unit. Equally eye-catching are the pizzaiolos across the hall tossing dough at the ‘Forno di pietra’.
The menu is extensive, with many favourites and their authentic ingredients spelled out. An impressive 38 pizzas choices are divided by seven categories of ingredients – ask the waiting staff for inspiration if you’re sinking into carb confusion.
These same ingredients are allowed to sing in honest fare, such as fresh antipasti caprese salad (AED 75 incl taxes/VAT); fluffy white buffalo mozzarella surrounded by good leaves, basil and sweet datterini tomatoes. Special mention to the mozzarella, which isn’t just a cheese but part of Italian cultural – it was smooth and elastic without being rubbery.
Or, more impressively to these tastebuds, polpettine alla Napoletana – moist veal meatballs (AED 65) that are flavoursome even before the accompanying vibrant garlic-infused tomato sauce joins in.
You can have Luigia (AED 160/45) or Luigina (smaller) Petali, one of Luigia’s specialities, as either an appetizer, sharing platter or main. Looking a little like savoury swirled buns, these pizza ‘petals’ pack subtle flavour and – filled with mozzarella, smoked scamorza, mushrooms, truffle cream and flakes of fresh truffle and, in our case, bresaola – are truly moreish.
So to secondi proper; on one side of the table a calamari alla griglia – squid salad (AED 95) – al dente grilled mouthfuls, nestled on rocket and datterini tomatoes.
With flames roaring inside the Neapolitan pizza oven on the other side of the restaurant, it seems woeful not to delve into another Luigia signature dish. Fun fact – the pizza oven is made of stones from the famous Vesuvius volcano of Naples, brought by the restaurant’s staff in their luggage.
Of the many pizza choices, the Stromboli (AED 90) beckoned. A rustic, delightfully chewy crust gave way to a lighter base and delicately balanced components; tomato sauce made from revered San Marzano Pomodori, roasted peppers, homemade spicy Angus sausage, basil and Grana Padano for one of the finest pizzas these jaws have encountered in a while.
According to the experts, the correct way to eat Neapolitan pizza is to graciously fold it in half and these slices were so soft and so elastic that they happily yielded.
Almost full, a cup of simple vanilla ice cream landed that was less about richness, more about the vanilla (AED 50), and a reliable panna cotta (AED 40) was nicely lit by a lively strawberry sauce. More decadent choices are tiramisù della nonna and fondant au chocolat.
Luigia – which follows four successful European venues – ups its game by offering many staples made better by great ingredients harvested from the brand’s homeland.
And that – with a selection of pasta and calzone yet to try – surely warrants another visit, especially on Wednesday from 6pm-11pm, when for AED 150 you’ll get one of the restaurant’s signature pizzas, plus three fizzy beverages.
Dubai Week dined as a guest of the venue.