So, what’s Italian for vegetarian?

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So, what’s Italian  for vegetarian?

little italy breaks the clutter by vegging it out — and patrons are loving it

By Sushmita Bose

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Published: Fri 24 Aug 2012, 7:14 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:56 PM

It was with slight trepidation that I greeted the enthusiasm my hard-core vegetarian friend displayed when he called to say he wants to take me to this “awesome vegetarian Italian joint”. What about the meatballs and the pepperoni, I thought dismally as I caved in lamely.

Happily for me, dinner at Little Italy Ristorante, set in the South Asian hub of Karama, turned out to be an unexpected treat. The casual dining area — prettily done up and real cosy — boasted of a decent crowd, most of who didn’t appear as though they were on a neighbourhood jaunt.

The food is “authentic Italian”, I was told, and I was inclined to take that with a pinch of oregano. The thing is, just because an element of catering to primarily South Asian patrons has crept in, the food (hamstrung by the vegetarian groove) tastes better: there is that extra punch, the lashings of spices and herbs, a well-cooked feeling — all of which concoct a wonderfully exuberant experience.

I embarked stolidly on to the divine jalapeno dip (definitely one of the stand-outs) with home-baked crunchy bread, washing it all down with adventurous, Oriental-sounding mocktails, which may be misfits, but I was already loving this melting pot kind of environment: I recommend the Shanghai Surprise (pineapple juice, litchi juice, vanilla ice cream, crushed ice) and the Mungpoo (watermelon juice with a twist).

Funghi Alla Trapanese (roasted mushrooms with garlic, lemon, parsley and olive oil) was yet another standout starter. The pastas were good; make it a point to try the Pasta Del Barone (in classic noble sauce with bechamel, tomato sauce, red chilli and parmesan) and Pasta Barbaresca (in creamy sauce with fresh broccoli, garlic, parsley, sundried tomatoes and parmesan). The Nawabi (now, isn’t that a dead giveaway?) pizza was tangy and flavourful but I personally preferred the more sedate Exotic pizza with mushroom and pineapple — a nice offset after the spicy pastas.

The restaurant staff inform that Tabasco is the highest selling pizza, and if you look at its composition, you’ll know exactly why: spicy tomato sauce, mozzarella, jalapeno peppers, sundied tomatoes, tabasco).

Some cool desserts — like a caramel pudding, a mango cheesecake and chocolate brownie — followed. Were they “authentic Italian”? Well, Pavarotti — God bless his soul — wouldn’t have probably vouched for their authenticity, but they were hearty 
and delicious.

Little Italy is a little bit mixed up, a little confusing on the palate, a little overwhelming for non-vegetarians like me who were suddenly not missing the meat and the fish — but it’s bound to make a big difference in the culinary landscape of this foodie city.

Cost for 2: Dh150-Dh200
Contact: Little Italy Ristorante, opposite BurJuman Shopping Mall (behind Avenue), Karama, 
Dubai. Tel: 04 385 3445

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