Italy by the Beach

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Italy by the Beach

If you are fussy about Italian food and yearn for your place in the Mediterranean sun, 
Sapori di Bice may be your best bet

By Sushmita Bose (editor Wknd)

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Published: Fri 31 Oct 2014, 2:32 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 7:20 PM

With the weather beginning to display a hint of promise — especially post sun-downing, and especially if you happen to be walking down a water body such as the sea — it’s a bright idea to be spending some quality time down at The Beach. Right opposite JBR. It’s a wonderful beachfront property, crammed with exciting things to do (and shop for) and bursting at the seams with great F&B outlets.

If you are with a bunch of people boasting discerning, individualistic appetites and somehow failing to find a common meeting place to eat your heart out, my personal recommendation is always and forever Italian. For a very simple reason. The bread sampler — you can never go wrong with that… the extra virgin olive oil, the balsamic vinegar. And because Italian cuisine is so much more less refined 
than, say, French, and so hearty, wholesome, at one level rustic even, their bread is the best there is. There’s also the pizza, of course. Very rarely do you find a group of diners not agreeing on a pizza. They may disagree on the toppings, but never on a thin-crust, oven-fresh circle of boundless joy.

So, on this particular evening out at The Beach, I am with a bunch of people boasting discerning, individualistic appetites, and we move towards the direction of Sapori di Bice, an offshoot of the Bice brand of ristorante chain. In Italian, sapori means flavours, so Sapori di Bice stands for “flavours of Beatrice”, because Bice was the pet name of Beatrice — a family member of the good people who own the Bice brand. Beatrice, her cooking and her recipes have been the inspiration in the Bice story. I remember the chat I had with her grandson Raffaele Ruggeri when I met him (a few years ago) at Bice Mare in Souk Al Bahar.

Sapori di Bice seems very Mediterranean conceptually. Fresh, laidback, lots of light, 
lot of whites, warm, friendly staff. Luxuriously homely. Very carpe diem, if you ask me. There is an adjoining al fresco area which should be lovely in the cooler months.

The food that followed definitely vouched for the carpe diem factor. Everyone forgot about calories and cholesterol, and savoured life as the hits just kept on comin’.

First off, the bread sampler, the bread still steaming, just out of the oven. There are the olive and tomato variants, and then the oregano focaccia. Served up with olive paste and moist goat cheese. And, of course, the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It’s all so good that there’s an inherent problem: tear away at it for too long, and you might suffer from a severe case of satiation.

Next up is a kale salad with spinach black beans tossed up in yoghurt dressing (soul food for those looking for a healthy fix), some quinoa with beans sprout and ginger dressing, and crispy fried beans (which is startlingly good — always maintained, simple does it best!).

The pomodoro fresco (fresh tomatoes) with Mozzarella — my pet favourite — is fabulous, the Mozzarella just the right consistency, the tomatoes flat-out juicy.

A tangy Rigatoni with eggplant, tomato 
sauce and cheese follow, and before I can 
allow the flavours to settle, we are present-
ed with a potato gnocchi whose slightly 
sweet blandness offsets the tartness of the Rigatoni beautifully.

Now it’s time for the protein brigade. There is the ravioli with beef and cream sauce. I don’t eat beef, but “excellent” seems to be the verdict all around. Ditto, for the veal chops. I’m surprised that peeps I’m with are being able to articulate appreciation. I’m so full I can barely breathe, so I devour my portion of grilled chicken in silence. It’s utterly elemental, sans any fancy trappings, just flavourful.

I am now told that everything will come to a big zero if we don’t ‘taste’ some sweet 
nothings. There’s lavender and amarena berries served with a strawberry sorbet, a lemon cake slice with a lemon sorbet, a banana-pineapple-almond slice with coconut sorbet, a chocolate seven-layer slice with chocolate sorbet… and a little tray of more sorbets: pistachio, coffee, vanilla.

They’re all heavenly. But banana-pineapple-almond wins the day to my mind. I find it interesting how a lemon slice is paired with a (even sharper-tasting) lemon sorbet, and it’s all so nicely rounded up.

What struck me about the menu at Sapori di Bice is that it is so trademark Italian. The ingredients are oft-repeated, so you — if you are as much a procrastinator as I am — may be confused while placing an order. Which good thing do you let up on in order to be fulfilled by something else that sounds similar? I read somewhere it may be a good idea to follow the “prendo quello che ha preso lui” motto if you are a wide-eyed tourist on a food trail in Italy: have what the guy at the next table’s having. But do be discreet while you check out the contents on his plate.

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