“We’ll try to add another day of service every week, a little more complexity, a little more volume and a little more intensity until we get it right.” Raj Dagstani
Once just a little hidden gem in Mina Zayed, Raj & Sebastian Dagstani’s homage to Italian cuisine has become an institution in the capital’s dining scene. Marmellata, taken from the Italian word for marmalade, is the father and son’s neighbourhood pizzeria & bakery that’s proving a huge hit with Abu Dhabi residents.
Born from humble beginnings the duo’s success is now immeasurable with queues of people lining up every week to taste the homemade delights and share their bounty on social media. The concept may be simple, but it really works. Focaccia and pizza topped with intriguing flavour pairings available just a couple of nights a week until they sell out. The phrase ‘first come, first served’ is never truer than on an evening when Marmellata is open.
Pre-pandemic, Marmellata’s wares were offered weekly via Instagram. Everything sold out in rapid time followed by collection from the restaurant on a Friday evening. The combination of limited availability and delicious offerings caused a hype like no other venue in the city. When restaurants were allowed to re-open, people could once again get their Marmellata fix albeit in a socially distanced manner. Things went quiet for a while except the odd pop-up and partnership but behind the scenes the Dagstani’s were planning their revival.
Fast forward to 2023, Souk Al Mina is undergoing a rejuvenation and Marmelleta has had its own little expansion and makeover. The new dining room is adorned with a bold floral wallpaper and an eclectic gallery wall, there’s additional outdoor seating and longer opening hours. What hasn’t changed is the great food, the unavoidable queue and the demand.
What’s available? The handwritten menu taped to the door offers New York-ish pizza (ish because we’re in Abu Dhabi not NYC, duh) and focaccia topped with freshly sourced, seasonal ingredients. Expect flavoursome pairings such as pesto, artichoke & pesto, fennel & caramelized onion, speck (Italian cured meat), mushroom & burrata drizzled with truffle honey. You have to experience it yourself to fully appreciate the flavours. They also serve Italian sodas and homemade cookies.
So what’s all the hype? Marmellata is just as much about the food as it is about the personalities. Raj, the larger than life New Yorker with a love for food and art, who has turned his passion into a successful business and Sebastian, his teenage son who’s still a student but spends his evenings serving and mingling with customers.
So while Sebastian is at school, Raj and his team prepare tray after tray of focaccia and pizza dough in preparation for the duo to welcome customers from Wednesday to Sunday evenings. My advice, arrive hungry and early to avoid disappointment and be prepared to queue, it’s totally worth it!
Location: Souq Al Mina, Abu Dhabi
Opening Hours: Wednesday – Sunday from 5pm – 7pm (check Instagram for updates)
I was a paying guest and all views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2023. All rights reserved. Additional photos used with courtesy of marmellatalove.com and www.instagram.com/marmellatalove/