Prego’s at Abu Dhabi’s Beach Rotana has long been carving out a niche as an establishment for quality Italian cuisine at reasonable prices. Like many of the F&B outlets at this beachfront property overlooking the rapid modernisation of Al Maryah Island, Prego’s continues to garner a strong following with local residents and in-house guests alike. Granted it may not have the sophistication of Finz or Rodeo Grill. but it’s the causal nature of the establishment that brings a steady flow of customers day and night.
The interiors evoke a feeling of Italy transplanted into the heart of Abu Dhabi, via the use of parmesan wheels stacked amongst an impressive wine collection. A small circular bar (ideal for a pre or post dinner drink) marks the entrance to the dining room, in turn presenting a minimalistic approach to decor it’s a simple colour palette of neutral tones and light wood, with the odd splash of red offset by the shiny tile work. The interiors provide a somewhat homely feel featuring a central show-kitchen with wood-fired pizza oven. With the weather (finally) cooling down we settled on the outside terrace, where we found ourselves dining under the fronds of palm trees wrapped in twinkling fairy lights.
Forgoing the fine dining setting the majority of Abu Dhabi restaurants are currently following when it comes to Italian cuisine, Prego’s keeps things simple with a casual approach to dining. Offering simplistic home-cooked dishes, where honest ingredients are the primary focus. We must confess that our recent visit to Prego’s was our first, which seemed fitting considering it coincided with the launch of a new menu, updated for the first time in a number of years.
The Prego’s menu isn’t breaking any boundaries when it comes to Italian cuisine but presents all the favourites you would expect from an Italian restaurant, plus the addition of pork (specifically in the pizzas) for those so inclined. We begin with our must-order Burrata (AED 82), presented on a perfect white plate with rucola, roasted datterino tomatoes and a zesty balsamic reduction. The burrata itself may have been a little smaller than anticipated but provided a plate of harmonizing flavours, with the creamy burrata served at the correct temperature and working well against the balsamic.
We also enjoy the Italian Lamb Meatballs (AED 80) which despite some haphazard plating offers great flavour from the rich Pomodoro sauce, inside which the plump and well seasoned lamb meat has been stewed, Accompanied by a cheese and garlic bruschetta, it’s a well-portioned starter that tastes much better than it looks. Yet this appears to be the main problem with our meal overall, for the dishes just don’t match up to the flavours when it comes to visual presentation. It’s often been said that we eat with our eyes, and we fully appreciate the rustic nature of the Italian cuisine presented at Pregos, but when the food lacks visual appeal, diners will lose a connection to the overall experience.
This pattern continues into the main courses, where we’re recommended the Ossobuco Milanese Braised Veal Shanks (AED 125) by our attentive waitress. It’s an interesting choice for the fact that it doesn’t follow the recommendations of pasta or hand-stretched pizzas we were expecting. The dish is a robust choice and represents a hearty and somewhat heavy offering, where the tender meat is surprisingly upstaged by the beautiful saffron risotto, creamy and subtle in its flavours.
The Grilled T-Bone Steak Fiorentina (AED 174) has to be a contender for one of the largest pieces of steak in the city. A staple of Tuscan cookery, the wood-fire grilled steak is a carnivores dream and offers a cheaper steak alternative to those sold at neighbouring Rodeo Grill. It’s a monstrous plate of prime-aged steak brushed with olive oil and sea salt and served with balsamic glazed shallots and sautéed spinach. The steak is another deceptive dish where the look really undersells the beauty of the meat, nonetheless it’s a bit of a showstopper and a definite talking point for the table.
Over the course of the last two years, we’ve worked our way through our fair share of tiramisu’s (perhaps we should compile a blog post on the best ones in the city?) in Abu Dhabi. This Italian favourite of mascarpone and coffee represents our all-time favourite dessert and admittedly we’re VERY hard to please when it comes to tiramisu. It may be fairly non-traditional in presentation, yet we thoroughly enjoyed the deconstructed version presented here (AED 45), complete with Mascarpone imported from Italy. The ratio between individual ingredients may sway a little too far in the mascarpone’s favour bit when it tastes this good, you’re not going to mind.
A more obscure choice was the signature Chocolate and Aubergine Tart (AED 47) which we must confess to ordering more out of intrigue than anything else. Now, we’ve had both beetroot and chilli in unison with chocolate before, but never aubergine! Surprisingly it’s a combination that works, offering bitter-sweet cocoa which brings a balance to the plate and offsets the acidity of the aubergine. The texture may be slightly denser than one might expect but its a worthy choice for those looking for a chocolate based dessert without the sweetness at the end of their meal.
Our experience at Prego’s reminded us of Rotana’s other casual Italian concept Rosso, which we’ve reviewed at both the Amwaj Rotana and the ART Rotana in Bahrain. Both Italian concepts are strong in offering family dining and a competitive pricing structure, reflective of Rotana’s reputation for good value for money. In Italian Prego means “you’re welcome” and with proficient service, this is definitely how you’ll feel.
Our meal at Pregos was a purposeful attempt to stay away from our usual choices (carpaccio, beef tartare) and it may well be the first Italian meal we’ve had that featured neither pizza or pasta. As with our recent comments regarding Parmigiana and Bocca the plating at Prego’s could do with some refinement but do offer good flavours. With so much excitement coming to the Beach Rotana in the coming months, including some new outlets, we’re excited to see what the F&B team come up with next. Watch this space…
We were invited to dine at Pregos. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Cover image used courtesy of Beach Rotana.