In this year alone, at least four new pizzerias have opened in the UAE (two in Abu Dhabi, two in Dubai), with each of them serving up authentic, Italian pizza. Does this mean that synthetic tomato sauces, stodgy, spongy bases and greasy cheese laden toppings have had their day? We certainly think so. Read on for our guide to some of the best new pizza places around. Granted, our fifth recommendation, N_K_D Pizza, has been open for a bit longer (two years in December), but the company is planning to launch four stores in Abu Dhabi by the end of next year, so view this as an early primer for those living in the capital.
We've raved about Rossovivo before and are fully prepared to do so again. This little pizzeria produces proper Neapolitan-style pizza cooked by chef Raffaele Medaglia in a hand built Forno Tradizionale Napoletano brick oven.
The dough is left to rest at room temperature for at least 12 hours before being stretched nice and thin, topped with quality ingredients (including excellent mozzarella cheese from the Sharjah-based company Italian Dairy Products) and cooked in a searing oven for just 90 seconds. The results speak for themselves: the crust is delicious and chewy yet crunchy and the classic Margherita is a lesson in well-executed simplicity.
At the moment it only delivers to select areas, but to taste this artisan pizza at its best, perch on a stool in the store and tuck in the moment it comes out of that oven. The shortlist of antipasti and salad options (just three a piece) also sound very tempting. We will be visiting again soon to try, in particular, the fried courgette blossom stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies (Dh8).
• Must try pizza: the Raffaele (Dh45); a mozzarella, cream, pistachio, bresaola and basil topped creation. Sounds bizarre, tastes delicious.
• Rossovivo, Millennium Tower, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, 04 380 5833. www.rossovivo.ae
Pompeii Italian Restaurant and Cafe in Jumeirah Lake Towers fired up its pizza oven for the first time in March and has quickly become a popular spot, particularly with families. It serves "modern Italian cuisine inspired by tradition" and you'll find plenty of hearty pasta dishes on the menu. But the Roman-style pizzas, with their charred-around-the-edges crust and tangy "secret recipe" pizza sauce, are our favourite.
When the weather is cooler, you can enjoy your meal out on the patio, but during the summer months, it might be wise to take advantage of some of its very reasonable delivery deals: Dh60 for two pizzas of your choice (one large, one small) and two drinks; or Dh80 for two portions of penne arrabiata, one large Margherita pizza and four drinks.
• Must try pizza: the Pompeii Primavera (small Dh28, large Dh40) is topped with mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, rocket and Parmesan shavings.
• Pompeii Italian Restaurant and Cafe, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai, 04 453 9390, www.pompeiipizza.ae. Free delivery from 10am to midnight
APi CAE Gourmet
Many of APi CAE's pizzas are displayed in a glass counter at the front of the store alongside a selection of freshly baked breads and pastries. At first, this made the purist in us sceptical: how would pre-cooked pizza measure up against those that are cooked to order? The answer was quickly evident: surprisingly well.
The base of APi CAE's pizzas is thin and nicely scorched along the bottom and the topping ratio is just right. Generous and full of flavour, there's not a soggy base in sight. We recommend dipping leftover crusts into pools of good quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Look out for the bottles around the cafe.
The eight classic pizzas cost Dh45 each, while the gourmet selection - which includes goat's cheese glazed with honey and walnuts and a tasty smoked Scamorza cheese with turkey - cost Dh55. APi CAE also get marks for serving its pizza by the slice (Dh10).
• Must try pizza: the Vegeteriana (Dh45) comes piled high with a changing selection of colourful, fresh vegetables.
• APi CAE Gourmet, Block A, Khalidiya Towers, Abu Dhabi, 02 666 8909, www.apicae.com
It may have only been open for a few months, but Pizzeria Olivella in Abu Dhabi has already got plenty of people talking. And quite rightly; the pizza is lovely.
The cosy pizzeria is the brainchild of Alexander Clavel, a Swiss entrepreneur and the founder and managing director of Federal Restaurant Corporation, which previously brought the upmarket cafe Mirabel to the city. Clavel says that with Pizzeria Olivella, he set out to create a restaurant that brought "genuine charm, originality and imagination to the dining scene", adding that, "I am trying to make an unpretentious 'everybody' restaurant. One where the food is great, prices are low and everybody feels at ease."
Pizzeria Olivella's pizza is produced in line with standards set by the Neapolitan Pizza Chefs' Association and the prices are very reasonable, its best-selling Margherita costing Dh32.
Note that its delivery bikes are fitted with specially sourced delivery boxes from Germany, which ensure that the pizza's temperature drops by just 3 degrees centigrade per 30 minutes, so it should arrive piping hot. Like the restaurant on Facebook and order online and you won't ever have to pay for delivery (Facebook.com/PizzeriaOlivella).
• Must try pizza: the Olivella (Dh36) is a tasty combination of caramelised onions, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled goat's cheese, roasted pine nuts and mozzarella.
• Pizzeria Olivella, Marks & Spencer Centre, Airport Road, Abu Dhabi, 02 622 5111, www.olivella.ae
If you're after a fast pizza fix, then N_K_D Pizza sets the bar high. Chirpy, bandanna-wearing staff zoom about Dubai in fluorescent green and black outfits and delivery is guaranteed within 30 minutes. Recently, a hot out of the oven pizza arrived at my door just 16 minutes after I placed the order.
I'd say this pizza is more American-style than Italian, but it's certainly no pizza-pie. In fact, it's one of the healthiest around. The signature "ancestral blend" crust is made from a mix of 10 different grains and contains prebiotic agave fibre and probiotics (healthy bacteria) and the tomato sauce is free of added sugar, citric acid, preservatives and additives.
Choose from one of the nine signature pizzas on the menu or opt to build your own, selecting from an extensive list of fauna, flora and cheese. You can even make your crust skinny, if you so wish.
• Must try pizza: the Mediterranean (Dh39 for medium) comes topped with artichokes, sun-dried tomato, red onion, black olives and feta.
• N_K_D Pizza operates across five different locations in Dubai: Al Barsha, Dubai Marina, Studio City, Murooj Rotana and Uptown Mirdiff. See www.nkdpizza.com for specific phone numbers or to place an order online. Note that on Thursdays and Fridays, the Marina store is open 24 hours