For the Love of Pasta

italyflagThis should go well with the King’s visit to Italy today, but I swear it’s just a coincidence :-) but first I need to ask: is there that many Italian restaurants in Riyadh? I don’t know but I don’t think that I have seen many of them. But if you were craving pasta there are certainly a few places to be recommended.

There is Pizza Roma in Sulaymania. Now I have never been there because they don’t allow single men in the evening (don’t you just love how crazy the segregation in this city can get?) but whenever I ask about a good Italian place it is the first answer I usually get. So, Pizza Roma has a big reputation but since I’ve never tried it I don’t know how good it is. I trust the high taste of some of those who recommend it but I advice you to try it yourself, or if you have already eaten there you are welcome to share your views in the comments.

Another nice Italian place is the Roma Restaurant. It is one of Riyadh’s hidden treasures, located on a small dark back street near the intersection of Olaya and Mousa bin Nussair. A friend of mine who’s been to both Pizza Roma and Roma Restaurant says they have very similar menus. I recently visited the place and tried their mushroom cream soup as a starter and later the cannelloni with four kinds of cheese and béchamel. Both were delicious and the prices are not very expensive.

The place is small and if you have the misfortune to find a noisy crowd when go there then you might have a problem listening to your friend on the other side of the table. Even worse, some people don’t seem to have a problem smoking heavily in such a small closed area. Unfortunately, instead of banning this disgusting habit, the restaurant seem to encourage it by providing ashtrays on every table. A reservation is needed, especially on weekends, but during midweek you should be able to get a table without one if you were willing to wait for a few minutes.

On Tahlia St. you can find Pizza Amore, which offers a very good selection of speciality pizza that you can’t find anywhere else in town. I have been there a couple of times with foreign guests and my experience has always been more than nice. The families’ section is not very spacious so you may need to check before going there with a big mixed group. I recommend the anchovies pizza, if you were into that kind of thing, of course, as it seems that many people are afraid to try anchovies. I used to be like that, btw, but after trying this pizza I found that my fear was unfounded. They also make some seriously delicious raviolis.

Although I enjoy the experience of going to restaurants and slowly eating my meal under the dim lighting, sometimes I wish if there was a place where I can find a good instant pasta on-the-go that I can grab on my way home. I really wish that Mrs. Vanellis, which I like to go to in Khobar and Bahrain, would open here. If you happen to know something like that in town please let me know. Other than the restaurants I mentioned here I expect there might be a few more good Italian places in the city, so don’t hesitate to share your finds in the comments. What’s your favourite Italian restaurant in Riyadh?

17 thoughts on “For the Love of Pasta

  1. Okay Ahmed…maybe instead of having you over for a BBQ we should all go out to Pizza Roma instead so you can finally try this restaurant?

    And we like Milano’s as well which is also I believe on Tahlia Street. What I especially liked from the perspective of a western woman, is that in the family section one has two choices…a private enclosed are OR sitting openly among the other diners. The ambience as well as the food is excellent. We were provided sample appetizers with compliments of the chef and even at dessert we were also given a complimentary tray of various chocolate concoctions. The restaurant had music and was so tastefully decorated. It did indeed remind me much of some of my favorite restaurants in Milano and Como, two of my special Italian cities. The only thing missing from being totally authentic was the jug of house red wine which you would typically find on every table in Italian restaurants in Italy!
    Dang…now you have me hungry for pasta!!!

  2. Thanks for the picks Ahmad. I’ll be sure to try them out the next time I’m in Riyadh (for some reason I’ve never eaten Italian when I’m there). I was wondering if you guys have an Al Dente? We have a couple here in Jeddah and their Mushroom Risotto is to die for!

  3. @Saudi Jawa: just a question from someone who lives in Italy and love Mushroom Risotto: do you know what they use to substitute wine?, because its recipe uses a good amount of wine (one glass of wine for every cup of rice).

  4. @K-2:
    Usually the substitute for wine in recipes is up to the individual cook. I’ve never cooked risotto myself (though I intend to) so i don’t know what would work. In other Italian recipes I’ve used grape juice with a touch of vinegar with satisfactory results. Now that I think of it, I remember seeing bottles of unsweetened grape juice in Al Dente.

  5. I just came from Italy and Im sorry, but I have never eaten so much pizza and pasta as much as did on this trip.. the restaurants usually had a special touristic Menu` del giorno for special prices and there is always a pasta choice as an appetizer and almost every other day I would order a wood oven sottile la pizza marinara or napoletana.. I was afraid to get on the scale after I came back.. the food in italy is great.. and dont get me started on how great the coffee and pasticceria are especially for breakfast.. have it standing like italians do.. I dont understand how when I looked around most italians are thin not much obesity there with such an amazing high carb diet. if you go to italy, you wont like any italian food elsewhere ever again it just doesn’t taste the same. :(

  6. hey ahmed, try Italian Taste. its located on khrais (5rai9) street in riyadh.
    whats good about this restaurant is ther reasonable prices compared to Roma and Pizza Roma.

  7. So cool! Nice to know I’ll be able to find comfort food if ever I visit Riyadh. Allthough, I’m a little spoiled with Chicago style pizza and have learned not to bother with ordering pizza at restaurants outside of Chicago here in the states .. I found myself pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed pizza in Bosnia. I’ll have to add “try pizza in Riyadh” to my to do list.

    Oh – and Lilly – there is a study done on a certain region in Italy that has a high carb diet and I believe a high fat diet as well. It turns out that their genes have adapted to their diet and that the olive oil also plays a part in this phenomenon.

  8. I wish I could find good pizza in Riyadh. I went to The Pizza Company by Sahara Mall, it was bad.

    I miss papa johns (yes, I know they have it here but I am sure its gross like most American places opened here or a big slice of NYC pizza)

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