The brainchild of Italy's renowned Ferragamo family, Il Borro Tuscan Bistro strives to bring the culinary charm of Il Borro's medieval village to the cosmopolitan city of Dubai. Draped in neutral shades of white and beige, the food and wine make up for the missing splashes of color.
Sustainability holds a special place in the brand's heart, with all its ingredients hailing from organic sources and its raw materials being acquired from environmentally-conscious producers. Even its induction cooktops have been altered with sustainability in mind. Housed in the newly launched Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel in Madinat Jumeirah, sample the true taste of Tuscany at Il Borro.
Ring up Il Borro and you'll be greeted with an earthy Italian accent. While landing a reservation at this popular restaurant can be a challenge, making one is the exact opposite. The reservation procedure was prompt and precise. By the time I put down my phone, my inbox pinged with my electronic reservation. As is standard procedure, your tables are reserved for 30 minutes. If you plan on giving the kids a break from Chuck E. Cheese and treating them to authentic Tuscan pizza, keep in mind that the restaurant welcomes little ones no later than 8PM.
Il Borro Tuscan Bistro is located at the enchanting new Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel in Madinat Jumeirah. Simply drive up and toss your keys to valet who'll then handle it from there. Remember to get your parking ticket authenticated at the end of your meal.
Greeting and seating
Arriving before my colleagues, I had the pleasure of sipping an espresso at the bar while making light conversation with the bartender. In a compact space of ten minutes, I learned that he's an aspiring IT professional from a sweet little country called Moldova. As he began seasoning me with fun facts about his homeland, my colleagues arrived and off we sauntered to our table.
Seated beside the gaping French windows, a gentle breeze hovered over our table as we perused the menu. Overwhelmingly Italian, I barely knew where to start. Our server greeted us with a warm smile that pleasantly contrasted the cool wind – and delicately poured us a glass of water as we studied our options for the evening.
Knowledge and service of the waiter
Not once did our server stutter when asked about the brand and where it sources its ingredients from. He didn't even flinch when he flatly admitted that everything's organic and handpicked straight from a farm. His nonchalance hinted that it's simply impossible to prepare food worth raving about unless the building blocks are organic. Il Borro goes the extra mile and employs energy-saving strategies in both its kitchen and restaurant. Tracing back to the overwhelmingly Italian menu, we relied on his recommendations, which made for a winning meal.
Dinner at Il Borro Tuscan Bistro was an elegant three-course feast of beef tartare (tartara di manzo), burrata (burrata di andria), truffle pizza, Tuscan spaghetti with garlic-spiked tomato sauce (pici all'aglione), classic cheesecake (torta al fromaggio), and tiramisu.
Round one – First course // Appetizers
Our table was a medley of two omnivores and a vegetarian – so our first course called for one dish for each team. One of the best ways to judge how well something's cooked is by ordering it not cooked at all. Take the element of fire away from a chef, and watch their talent blossom.
Our beef tartare arrived flawlessly brunoised (“dicing” an ingredient into fine cubes). Although tartare first made its debut in French restaurants in the early 20th century – this Italian bistro did a terrific job executing the timeless recipe. A toothsome start to the evening, the ingredients did everything but overwhelm the palate. What stole this course's spotlight was the burrata.
With its origins predicted to have hailed from the early 1900s, the recipe has followed Meryl Streep's secret to graceful aging. Like a perfect soap bubble, it's rubbery exterior popped when lightly tapped with a fork. What turned it up a notch were the punchy slivers of cherry tomato and rich pluckings of fresh basil. Oh, and a generous golden splash of Il Borro's very own olive oil.
Round two – Second course // Entrées
I walked into Il Borro completely expecting the pasta to be homemade, and right I was! So when our pici all'aglione arrived, I was delighted to see the spaghetti strands were chubbier than their supermarket alternatives. Similar to Japanese Udon noodles, the thick spaghetti made for a hearty main course. The waiter took immense pride in telling us about the potency of garlic in the dish. Anxious about having a Dracula-esque reaction to it, the garlic added a striking piquance to the dish and left it at that. Tuscany is known for transforming simple ingredients into hero recipes – and that was evident from this humble dish with confident flavors. Contrasting what I just said about working wonders with simple ingredients, the truffle pizza made a celebrity appearance at our table. Embellished with the globally renowned Norcian black truffle, the pizza made us wish we were trapped in Groundhog Day, just so we could spend every evening relishing it!
Round three – Third course // Dessert
Our tastebuds decided to call it a night with a slice of classic cheesecake and tiramisu in a bowl. Now, cheesecake is a culinary masterpiece in any context. But Il Borro's cheesecake is less of a dining experience and more of an edible love affair. Following in its footsteps, the tiramisu was fluffier than freshly sheared sheep wool. Hitting all the right notes without bragging, it made a massive impact purely by being subtle in its execution. Fun fact: Il Borro's tiramisu strays from the traditional recipe that calls for amaretto. Despite that, we were intoxicated by its flavor!
Courtesy extended during the meal
Throughout the meal, I hoped the impeccably dressed manager would swing by just so I could ask him where he gets his immaculate suits tailored. While he didn't make it to our table, we were wonderfully looked after by the serving crew. Despite the bustling crowd, time felt like a luxury and we were blissfully left alone to soak up the menu without being nudged to order hastily.
Our night started off with veins bulging on the sides of our necks from having to throw our voice across the table. As the evening progressed, the ambiance grew softer. A glistening water feature in the courtyard elevated the atmosphere, especially when a gentle gust of wind created tiny ripples in it. Lambent lighting and candles added to the intimate ambiance of the restaurant.
An evening of indulging in one of Italy's finest black winter truffles, amongst other regional delicacies, left us with a bill of 633 dirhams for the three of us.
Overall, would you return?
I'm not a raving fan when it comes to Italian cuisine. Despite that, I'd return to Il Borro if a social occasion demanded it. With its delectable cheesecake and truffle pizza – I can hardly complain!
Norcian black truffle tagliatelle (Tagliatelle al tartufo di Norcia) and the biscotti.