By Jola Chudy
Leave your preconceptions of Italian cuisine at the door. You won't find pizza or lasagne at Niko Romito. Instead, get ready for the purest expression of Italian cooking ever to grace these shores
Deceptive simplicity is a pretty good way to describe the approach of Niko Romito, a triple-Michelin Star awarded restaurateur who unpicks the traditions of his homeland to their purest essentials.
“My cooking is simple and uncomplicated, yet there is complexity,” he notes.
Inspired by his native Abruzzo in southern Italy, Niko Romito’s pared-back dishes put exceptional ingredients centre stage. One signature touch, for example, is a full-sized, round loaf of bread made with potatoes and Italian flour. It is served in the centre of the table almost as a course in itself, mopped up with Carma extra virgin oil, an award-winning organic olive oil that is produced in Italy by the Bulgari family. Bread and oil – two humble ingredients rendered transcendent through their perfect expression, but try not to devour the entire thing before the rest of your food arrives.
The menu offers a selection of antipasti, pasta and risotto dishes, meat and fish plates and sides. Steamed langoustines with mayonnaise, lettuce and chili is an effervescently light and delicate way to whet your appetite; paper-thin medallions of herb-marinated beef carpaccio dissolve on the tongue leaving behind a perfect symphony of flavour.
Unlike your run-of-the-mill Italian eatery, where ordering a traditional second pasta course before the main seems greedy, here it seems right to do so, and a sensibly sized portion affirms your wisdom: fettucella with lobster and red prawns, or spinach and ricotta tortelli with butter and sage satisfy but do not overfill. The exquisite simplicity of an oven-baked wild seabass with tomatoes, garlic and parsley is a reminder of how joy-inducing it is to tuck into a perfectly flaky morsel of fish, its freshness accentuated by humble ingredients.
“We created an anthology of great classics – concepts tied to presentation and service – of our traditions. This is the food that I like to eat far from home, my ‘ideal’ of Italian cooking,” explains the chef.
The restaurant also offers tasting experiences in the form of a Grand Tour Menu, where 10 dishes are served over the course of your evening. The concept focuses on simplicity, synthesis and flavour, offering an alternative canon of contemporary Italian cooking. In addition to this and Reale, his restaurant ranked 43rd among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Romito has opened restaurants in Bulgari properties in Beijing and Shanghai.
“Whoever dines at Ristorante Niko Romito, will leave with the feeling of having visited our country, even if they’ve never set foot there. This is my dream” says the celebrated chef, and having had the pleasure of dining at his restaurant in Dubai, CEO can say with certainty that his dream has come true.