Prego's - Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi

Prego's feels bright and airy the moment you walk in. This continues as Marilene, my hostess, guides me with assurance, grace and elegance to my table - text book stuff. Nice. Very high ceilings and ceiling to floor windows continue this bright feeling. The wheat-colored wooden floors and tables complement the light atmosphere in the restaurant. Not even the slightly darker shades of brown in places, nor the crimson coloured seats on some chairs nor the black booth seating can detract from the airy feel. I immediately relax to the sound of chatter, clinking glasses and plates. How can one not relax in such a place?

The entrance to Prego's
Furnishings are simple, shifting your focus to the menu.
Windows allow a sense of spaciousness. 
I am greeted by my waitress, Nilar, who takes my order after handing me an impressive wine list. The bottle of wine, known for being the scourge of the solo diner, meets its match here at Prego's, where I count no less than 28 by-the-glass wine options. While perusing the wine list, I start munching on the freshly baked bread, dipping it in the crushed olives and white bean sauce. As I break the bread, crumbs are everywhere. I love it - so crispy. 

Ah, it is asparagus season, so this sensational vegetable needs to feature somewhere on my table this evening. Mid-way through a bite of bread, my soup arrives - cream of asparagus soup. I try it immediately. The consistency is just right. I like that it feels a little grainy, not too much, in my mouth. I feel if you are having vegetable soup, it needs to taste like a vegetable, feel like it, look like it on some level - it cannot be perfectly smooth. This was how I wanted it, and the chef delivered. The pieces of asparagus in the soup were an added joy - they tasted crunchy and real. A lovely start.

Looks so inviting - tastes even better. 
Part of a super impressive by-the-glass-wine list.
Prego's is big. It can cater for 200 diners, and on this night, a weeknight, the restaurant is quite busy, but the service is attentive. I hear a fork or knife drop and within seconds a waiter scurries to replace it. Nice. Nilar, my waitress,  delivers the same service and more. For wine, I leave myself in her hands and she makes her recommendation. She wins me over immediately when, after a few questions, she chooses a wine less expensive than others on the list. No cheap up-selling. Refreshing. Honest. She has won my trust. I start off with the Planeta, Plumbago Nero D’avola 2012 from Sicily. It is  a lovely round wine with hints of blackberry. Easy to drink. A good choice. I feel lucky to have her  as my waitress - Honest, conversational, ambitious and confident. 

My 'ham' and buratta plater. 

While I am enjoying my wine, Chef serves me a platter of 'ham' treats with a centre piece of buratta on aromatic and flavourful rucola. On the same plate I see felino, Parma ham and spicy salami. I love the flavours on my plate and I spend about half an hour on it, trying to make it last forever, a vain effort in the end. In the background, the sound of laughter, like a wild fire spreading, can be heard in numerous places. So relaxed here. For my next glass of wine, I try the  Peter Lehmann Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 from the Barossa Valley in Australia  which turns out to be a winner. Again, easy to drink, but with a deeper colour than my first and much fuller. Again, a great recommendation by my waitress. 

For my main I opt for the Homemade tortelli filled with pumpkin and served with butter and Parmesan. The tortelli is beautifully cooked and as I bite deeper, the sweetness of the pumpkin is offset by the savoriness of the parmesan cheese - a simple but delicious marriage of flavours. 

Because I requested a half portion tortelli, I have ample space for dessert, and casting an eye at the menu, I settle on the rum and raisin ice cream and Classic tiramisu. The ice cream is ok, without bowling me over. I thought that darker raisins would have brought a  nicer contrast and of course I wanted a heavier taste of rum. Also, the colour kept reminding me of vanilla. I grew up with a darker colour of rum and raisin, I think to myself. A smoother consistency, finally, would have made it perfect.

In anticipation of the tiramisu. I order a Remy Martin VSOP, a fitting companion to tiramisu. It arrives in a warm glass - I am beside myself. I cannot tell you how many times I have been frustrated because I have had my Cognac poured in a cold glass. A slightly heated glass releases some lovely notes that would otherwise be lost were the glass not heated. I go over to the bar man and acknowledge him. Nice.

Rum and raisin ice cream (contains alcohol)
Cognac perfectly served. 
The classic tiramisu
Finally, the tiramisu is placed in front of me. It is indeed classic, served in an espresso size cup. It turns out to be rich in mascarpone, and the coffee at the bottom gives it real kick. The cranberries with gold leaf add an element of tang. Enjoyable.

To sum up, Prego's is a restaurant with a relaxed and easy going atmosphere that really allows you to unwind. This was emphasized when staff sang in honour of a birthday celebrant. Very nice. The casual atmosphere, though,  is underpinned by good, unobtrusive service, allowing you to focus on more important matters like simply enjoying the very good food and equally wonderful wine list. Nothing pretentious about Prego's. It succeeds in delivering what it promises - an all round wonderful dining experience with very satisfying dishes at a fantastic price .

The bottom line

Beach Rotana, Abu Dhbai
+971 2 697 900

Starters 41-88 Dhs
Mains 73-151 Dhs
Desserts 38-42 Dhs

Brandon Stoltenkamp