Pappagallo - Le Meridien, Abu Dhabi

18 years in the restaurant business is a long time. In Abu Dhabi, where the last few years have seen exponential growth in the hospitality and Food and Beverage Industry, 18 years is a lifetime. After all these years, how does Pappagallo manage to keep customers returning? I went to find out.

As I arrived at Pappagallo, I saw a customer about to leave. I was curious and I asked him if he had enjoyed his meal. "I always do," he said. "I have been coming here for 15 years. I simply love the food and they change the menu often." That is something. It is called longevity of a brand and loyalty of a customer. I took my seat and waited for my waiter. While it was 34 degrees outside, there was a light breeze and al fresco dining made so much sense. We had some lovely shade, so it all made for a beautiful Summer's afternoon.

The beautiful Le Meridien gardens.

The lively facade is symbolic of a lively atmosphere.
One of the great things about Pappagallo, like all the restaurants at Le Meridien Abu Dhabi, is that when you dine outside, the view of the garden makes the restaurant a destination in itself. The question, would the food make this more than just about an aesthetic appreciation of the garden?

I love the menu. There is enough variety to keep you interested in the menu. I opted for the Nodini caprese as my starter and we ordered two mains - the lasagne and an off menu item, my favourite Italian pasta, the pepperoncini. I love it when chef's acquiesce because it shows a passion that still runs through their veins, a passion to create and excite the guest. I conveyed the message to chef that I was not opposed to chili and that he could be generous with his use of it. Also, I imagine it means something to the chef because i will allow him or her to express him or herself in a different way. Of course I heard about the tasty pizza made here, so I ordered the margheritta pizza.

Freshly baked bread. 

While waiting, we ordered a bottle of red. It was a 2011 Gentilesco Chianti. It was alright without causing chaos with my taste buds. It was not as full as I had hoped, but nonetheless more than drinkable. The restaurant, though, does have a wonderful wine list of Italian wines.

Our starter arrived and I was surprised. There was one big blob of mozzarella on the plate surrounded by large pieces of tomatoes. The  rustic but thought-out presentation immediately endeared me. It was a lovely surprise when I saw it was burrata. I cut into it, and the creaminess inside oozed out. It was all complemented by the abundant use of pesto. Glorious.

Aromatic and falvourful

During our meal we met the manager who allowed me to live out my constant fantasy of the Italian restaurant that finds itself between trattoria and ristorante - the manager who engages guests and shares with them interesting anecdotes. That is just what we had. This was engagement.

Highlight of my day.

Spot the half with fresh mozarella

We moved on to the mains and my pasta surpassed my expectations. The finely chopped garlic, red chili, basil and cherry tomatoes combined nicely to foil the olive oil and pasta.It tasted superb. the al dente cooking made me appreciate the chef even more. While I did not try the lasagne, I certainly had of the pizza. The manager instructed the chef to use fresh mozzarella on half and regular mozzarella on the other half. These are the things we remember when we leave restaurants.

The manager saved the day in terms of service. He held everything together. While support staff were disappointing, he really covered all the bases. It is the homeliness that makes this a wonderful restaurant. Simplicity. Added to this a chef who is true to the classics and you have a wonderful afternoon with a fantastic view of a garden that instills serenity and calm.

The low down

Le Meridien,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 644 6666 
Meal for 2 including a boottle of wine 400Dhs