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TOTÓ Abu Dhabi Review: An ode to Italian cinema on the Saadiyat shoreline

The sport star-backed Italian eatery is located at Mamsha on Saadiyat Island.

Sport and food might not sound like a catchy combination, but it appears to have worked for footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and tennis superstar Rafael Nadal. The pair are behind the capital’s latest culinary concept, TOTÓ Abu Dhabi.

Located in a prime position on the Saadiyat shoreline, TOTÓ Abu Dhabi overlooks the powder white sands and turquoise waters of Mamsha Al Saadiyat. Established in 2020 in Madrid, Spain, TOTÓ promises to whisk diners back to the golden era of Italian cinematography with its homage to the legendary film Cinema Paradiso. The décor includes artwork and accessories that reflect the spirit of Italian cinema and a chic Abu Dhabi sensibility. Plus, there is a buzzing bar and an open kitchen. 

Toto Abu Dhabi

Inspired by Italian cinema and cuisine circa 1950, TOTÓ offers a rustic yet luxurious experience. It’s a sophisticated spot with recessed wine cabinets, long drapes, olive trees in bulbous terracotta pots, pressed white tablecloths, and staff in cream dinner jackets and black bow ties offering prompt and proficient service.

Fresh fruits, vegetables, and pasta line the pass, which is bathed in warm lighting and flanked by oversized salt and pepper mills. These touches add Italian charm to the large restaurant, broken into an open dining room and a more intimate area with booth-style seating.

TOTÓ Abu Dhabi serves fine-dining Italian food. The menu combines traditional and creative dishes, so expect a menu of plentiful pasta, pizza, and meat and fish prepared in the wood-fired oven. Signatures include the Duck Cannelloni Lasagna with Foie Gras, Fregola Pasta with Octopus and Cuttlefish Loin, and the ever-popular Vitello Tonnato (thin slices of veal with tuna cream). 

TOTÓ Abu Dhabi

We begin with the Amberjack Tartare (AED 115) swimming in a burrata milk amidst pickled red onions and datterini tomatoes. The result: a light and delicate dish with a slightly sweet undertone and buttery texture. TOTÓ’s Grilled Scallops (AED 90), served with tomato purée and garlic-anchovy fondue, is a rich and robust dish where the trio of plump molluscs take centre stage surrounded by a marvellously moreish sauce designed for dipping with the restaurant’s housemade rosemary focaccia.

The caviar-topped Pizzeta with Tuna Carpaccio (AED 160) presents an interplay of textures, with the crispy crust contrasting with the smooth and naturally sweet tuna. The generous dollops of caviar provide a touch of decadence that is not just for show, as the saltiness of the roe adds an additional flavour profile to the nuanced dish. 

Toto Abu Dhabi

TOTÓ’s Matcha Tea Tagliolino with Shrimp Carpaccio (AED 120) is a lesson in pasta preparation. The dough offers a nice al dente bite and an ever-so-slight earthiness, while the prawn carpaccio elevates the plate, turning this intricate dish into a delicate delight. Elsewhere, the Grilled Filet Mignon (AED 195) is tender and juicy. The richness of the beef promotes a savoury complexity in relation to the almost syrupy demi-glace and a touch of sweetness from the caramelised spring onions.

Desserts steal the show. A literal slab of Creamy Burrata Cheesecake (AED 60) boasts a light, silky texture and muted sweetness, which is lifted by the accompaniment of honey ice cream. TOTÓ Abu Dhabi’s Pistachio Molten Cake (AED 60) is another superb success, offering a glorious ooze and a delicate blend of sour and sweet from the Amarepe cherries, which cut through the smooth pistachio filling. 

TOTÓ Abu Dhabi

Paired with an extensive drinks menu featuring exquisite wines and meticulously crafted cocktails, TOTÓ has been designed to transport diners to Italy. With a soundtrack ranging from LTJ XPerience to Satin Jackets and a very reasonable price point, given the produce and location, it’s easy to see why reservations at the Italian eatery are so hard to come by.

TOTÓ Abu Dhabi is in good culinary company. Mamsha Al Saadiyat is home to a range of restaurants, from the FACT award-winning Les Dangereux and NIRI Restaurant & Bar to the homegrown pizza brand Antonia and the cool cafe LOCAL.

Don’t let the sports star hype deter you. When Ronaldo and Rafa open a restaurant, you visit.

GO: Visit www.totorestaurants.com for more information.

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David Tapley - Editor-in-Chief
As editor-in-chief of the region’s most fiercely local lifestyle publication, David is a self-proclaimed hip-hop aficionado, championing all things food, travel, street art, and streetwear across the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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