Al Gusto has been in Abu Dhabi for a few years already, and I have meaning to go since it opened (!!). Located below Etihad Towers, Al Gusto is small but very open, and it feels pristine...as it should, being located in the high-end mall, The Avenue. But you don't have to wear Manolos to get into Al Gusto. Instead, their classiness is friendly and welcoming, and their prices prove that...And the fact that they have developed a following among the residents and office workers in the area. With the creation of an interesting menu that combines Italian flavors with local tastes (and they do it really well) they present a menu that is modern and also classic.
Try the bruschetta with fresh avocado and ricotta. It was a weekly special when I went, but with its popularity it just might eventually show up permanently. Or my absolute favorite dish, the Halloumi Con Polenta. Lightly grilled halloumi, with squares of buttery polenta. They are both cooked perfectly: warm, chewy halloumi with hot, crispy polenta. This maybe one of the only spots in the city that have invented this cross-cultural dish, and certainly that do it this well.
As an Italian restaurant, they do offer pizza, and will gladly make yours with any toppings that you request. The dough is thin and flavorful, and we tried the Italiano which comes with freshly minced beef, peppers, onions and mozzarella. I was most impressed, however, with their main courses. The Fish of the Day was a tenderly grilled salmon steak and the Pollo Milanese was a perfectly thin, breaded and fried chicken breast. Super crispy exterior with moist flavorful meat.
Italians never forget their dolce (sweets), and Al Gusto does some impressive stuff. They offer a Tiramisu with a little Middle Eastern twist, and have daily cakes, tarts and cookies. I tried the special dessert, which was a chocolate fondant. Perfect choice for those of you die-hard chocolate fans. And although they don't make their gelato in house, they do get it from a very good supplier. The smooth olive colored pistachio gelato tasted like freshly ground pistachios and cream.
Finally, don't skip the coffee, they have great quality beans and know use them.
This is not just another little cafe in a mall, Al Gusto is really good.
The Avenue at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi
Open 8am -10pm Sat-Thurs, and Noon to 10pm on Friday
PH: 02 666 6444
Free Valet Parking at The Avenue with stamp
(Call to check valet hours if important to you, as I know they are only available only after 2pm on Fridays and this is not the Valet at the hotel)