The best way to describe dining at the new Italian restaurant Dante Cucina Italiano was that it was like eating at Chef Alfonso’s home. Every dish had a unique Tuscan flare and flavour, that with every mouthful you feel yourself being transported back to Italy.
It’s All About Dante
The restaurant is named after Dante Alighieri, who was a poet in 1265 in what is now Italian Tuscany. He is best known for writing the ‘Divine Comedy’ and some of the greatest literary works ever written in the Italian language. In that same medieval period, gastronomy took huge leaps forward with the publication of the very first cookbook ‘Liber de Coquina‘. Dante frequently mentioned cooking in his ‘Divine Comedy’ and so, to celebrate the combination of poetry and cuisine, the menu is named Liber de Coquina and the Dante restaurant brings you the best Tuscan cuisine that it is meant to look, feel and taste like poetry.
There’s no better chef than Chef de cuisine Alfonso Ferraioli. He grew up in Tuscany so he knows the traditional and authentic way to prepare these dishes and with plenty of experience in the Middle East, he knows how to give each dish a unique twist that will appeal to everyone.
We were seated at our table by Assistant Restaurant Manager Dexter who explained Dante’s unique origin and design. He was always keen to help and explain every dish, along with our waitress Jessica and Chef Alfonso himself. In fact, they recommended our drinks and food for the entire evening!
To Start… Some Mocktails
For our drinks, we were brought the restaurant’s favourite mocktails: the Via Cortona, the Mosto-Mosto, the Orzata and the Bea. The Via Cotona was made with citrus, basil, mint, and limonata, the Mosto-Mosto contained apple, grape, vanilla, and limonta, the Orzata was sweeter with pineapple, strawberry, orgeat, and aranciata rossa, while the Bea was extra fruity with blackberry, pineapple and thyme.
The Food Is Served
To begin our culinary journey through Tuscan cuisine, we had to start with bread or pane which is an integral part of Italian life. We were served a basket of warm oversized Tuscan bread and you knew that the bread had come straight from the oven as it was still gloriously soft and warm. Paired with lashings of Italian olive oil and heaps of soft sundried tomatoes – which were available in huge bowls and vats on the bread station – there was no need to hold back.
For me, salads are usually just a sideshow while you enjoy the main event but this salad absolutely stole the show! The Panzanella or tomato salad was my favourite dish of the evening. The individual ingredients are brought to the table in glorious blue ceramic bowls so you can see exactly how the salad is made. To begin, a bed of croutons are heaped in to a large mixing bowl, mixed with fresh tomatoes which were ripened on the vine so they are extra juicy. These are then combined with a trickle of agrodolce bianco and lashings of olive oil. These ingredients are then mashed together by the chef so that the croutons can absorb the flavours of the agrodolce and the tomatoes. Afterwards the cucumbers, fresh basil leaves, salt, mixed herbs and pickled onions were added and mixed for 20 seconds. The result was a wondrously fresh and flavourful concoction which, in hindsight, we ate far too much of considering the vast quantities of food that were yet to arrive!
The next dish to arrive at the table was the Bruschettone Stracciatella Di Burrata – Pomodorini or a pulled burrata bruschetta. Served on a wooden board, this unique style of bruschetta comprised a thin bed of oven-baked bread, wedges of succulent tomatoes, heaps of pulled burrata cheese, sprigs of basil and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. The combinations of freshness from the tomatoes, creaminess from the burrata and the smoky undertone from the oven-baked bread made for another fantastic dish.
Another favourite of ours was the Crostoni Toscani In Teglia. Served on Tuscan bread, the chicken liver was paired with goats cheese, baby onions, bread, pesto, and herbs. Chef Alfonso was keen to tell us that we had to try a mouthful with all the ingredients to get a proper taste of Italy. And he was right!
A classic Italian dish that everyone knows and loves is… a margarita pizza. This Regina Margherita with buffalo cheese is a tasty addition to the menu and a fabulous choice for sharing with family or friends. This dish was served alongside the Cestino Di Olive Ascolane which had a fantastic rich, smoky flavour. These fried balls of chicken mince had a secret green olive hidden inside to add saltiness, and paired expertly with the soft herb butter they were served with.
What came to the table next was a puzzle at first. From a distance, it was hard to work our what it was but when it arrived at the table you could see it was black dough wrapped over a surprise ingredient. The Galletto – Crosta Di Pane is actually a whole free range chicken in a bread ‘jacket’ as they say. The whole chicken is stuffed with herbs and then encased in a black dough. This black dough is just regular pizza dough that has been dyed black with squid ink. by encasing it in the dough, Chef Alfonso was able to deliver a perfectly cooked, juicy chicken with salty skin which had absorbed all the flavours of the herbs which was trapped by the dough. Chef Alfonso was eager to tell us to try the baked dough as it’s perfectly suitable to eat.
In a similar fashion the Pesce Al Sale was another incredible dish that was served encased in a ‘jacket’. However, this jacket was not for eating! The catch of the day was encrusted in salt which Jessica had to crack open to reveal the succulent fish inside – yes a whole fish.
By this point, we were getting rather full but how can you turn down the pasta course at an Italian restaurant? We tried the Ravioli Di Melanzane – Ricotta Al Forno which was a ravioli stuffed with roasted eggplant or aubergine with baked ricotta crumbled on top and the Scoglio Per “Quatro”. This dish should not be attempted with less than four people – it’s massive! This overflowing plate of pasta comes with not one, not two nor three, but four different types of fish. It’s definitely a seafood lovers paradise. The sauce isn’t overpowering so you can really taste each different flavour of seafood like the scallops and crayfish.
There’s no better way to finish a proper Tuscan meal, than with some proper Italian desserts. Of course tiramisu is an infamous choice and Dante do it perfectly. The Tanto, Tanto Tiramisu is a oversized tiramisu with layer upon layer of tasty flavour. We also had to try Grandpa’s coffee cafe or the Coppa Del Nonno. The strong coffee flavour is perfect to cleanse your palette and when paired with something sweet like the Panna Cotta it makes for the perfect
All In All – 5 Stars!
In a time when you can’t travel anywhere, restaurants like Dante are so important. With authentic, traditional flavours and dishes you can be transported anywhere – and where else would you rather go than Tuscany?
Located at Salwa Beach Resort & Villas, Dante invites residents and guests to ‘Celebrate Life the Italian Way’ from Monday – Saturday, 4:30 pm – 11 pm.
For more information about new Italian restaurant Dante Cucina Italiana please visit their website or for reservations please call or WhatsApp 5045 9130.
Author: Charlotte Wright
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