Carluccio’s, the Italian Restaurant-Caffe-Foodshop chain hailing from the United Kingdom, has had phenomenal growth within the UAE. Within 5 years, the brand now has 8 outlets in Dubai and 3 in Abu Dhabi, with more openings on the way.
Carluccio’s owes its success to its simple, yet unique casual dining concept. Being a full-fledged restaurant, cafe and food store in one, Carluccio’s offers authentic Italian flavors at very reasonable prices.
We visited the branch at The Walk, JBR (Dubai) last weekend and discovered authentic Italian flavors go well beyond pastas and pizza.
The interiors of Carluccios at The Walk JBR is bright and cheerful. Bustling with weekend activity, the restaurant was overcrowded with enthusiastic patrons catching up with friends and family over a fine Italian fare.
The cafe counter showcases an array of tempting desserts, and the barista busily pours out aromatic coffee in an assortment of concoctions and sizes.
And I love the look of this colorful, well-stocked food shop. I bought a few special oil blends hoping they will improve my next home-made pasta creation. After all, with high-quality ingredients, the battle is half won!
Carluccio’s is a family restaurant. The staff are very friendly, and kids love them! My daughter got a kid’s pack loaded with coloring tools to keep her busy, and she was also given a serving of bread sticks while we studied the menu.
First came our drinks.
Hubby had the Apple Mojito (the drink on the far left). This is a mint and lime cordial topped with apple juice. Bubby had fresh mango juice, and my beautiful ruby-pink drink on the right is the Pomegranate Punch (a blend of pomegranate juice with lemon and lime that was refreshingly tangy).
For appetizers, we were recommended the Tomato & Pesto Bread and the Tricolore Salad, two of Carluccio’s most popular orders.
The Tomato & Pesto Bread is a pizza base topped with a generous spread of Italian pasta sauce made of flavorful dried tomatoes. A swirl of fresh, bright green pesto completes the very Italian marriage of flavors. We had it with dashes of Carluccio’s Chili Oil; mama mia it was good!
The chili oil can be bought from the food-shop for AED 50.
The Tricolore Salad consists of a platter of freshly sliced tomatoes and avocado, a heap of rocket leaves, and decadently thick slices of Italian mozzarella cheese. A thick wedge of focaccia bread is served on the side.
We also had a platter of Calamari Rings. Deep fried to a crisp golden brown and served with creamy sour cream and grilled lemon on the side, this is a stack of decadence I’d recommend to any seafood lover.
Hubby ordered the Beef Medallions. The beef fillet was char-grilled beautifully to a medium rare, and was served with rosemary potato wedges, rocket leaves with Parmesan shavings, and a subtly sweet red pepper sauce.
I had the Salmon Pesto. This dish consists of a steak of grilled salmon served on a bed of mixed vegetables including aubergine, tomatoes, and red and yellow peppers. A generous drizzle of flavorful pesto is served on the top of the salmon; the perfect Italian touch.
I am a huge fan of salmon, and if there’s one thing I don’t like, it has to be overcooked salmon. I requested mine to be done medium rare and the chef did an excellent job. The salmon was soft and succulent, and loaded with the freshness of flavor and natural juices. Even my daughter, a very picky 4 year-old eater, happily gobbled up forkfuls of this fish!
The Carluccio’s dessert menu has recently been reprinted, and features a beautiful lemon pie on the cover. ‘I’ll have the one on the cover!’ I declared.
Carluccio’s Lemon Pie is appetizingly zesty on the palette. Sinfully rich, the pastry crust is crumbly and full of buttery goodness. The pie is topped with a big dollop of mascarpone cheese. Its a pretty big helping, and although my little family had a spoon or two for tasting, I have to shamefully say I did a great job and wiping this plate clean!
My hubby ordered the very Italian tiramisu. This is the most ordered dessert at Carluccio’s, and for good reason. Fresh out of the Carluccio’s bakery, Espresso-soaked Savoiardi biscuits are layered between decadent whips of mascarpone and cocoa. This dessert tastes like a fluffy cloud of Italian mocha, and it disappeared in record time.
To end this gastronomic meal, we sipped on frothy cappuccinos right out of Carluccio’s very own cafe. The coffee here comes with a complimentary candy; a dark chocolate coated coffee bean! What a lovely ending to a meal 🙂
Our experience at Carluccio’s went to prove that great Italian cooking goes beyond pastas and pizza. At Carluccio’s, expect authentic Italian flavors in an informally bright, happy place. A great place to hang out with foodie friends, I envision even more branches opening up in around the Emirates.
For store locations and table bookings, visit www.carluccios.com