Il Baretto review: Riyadh restaurant with a flair for Italian masterpieces

Co-founded by three seasoned restaurateurs, the fine-dining venue from London is a study in culinary sophistication

Located in the swanky new King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, Il Baretto has become something of a landmark in the culinary capital of Saudi Arabia since it opened in November 2021.

The fine-dining Italian eatery is co-founded by renowned restaurateurs Arjun Waney of Zuma, Roka, Coya, LPM and The Arts Club, and Giuliano Lotto of Zafferano, Memory of China and Aubergine, in partnership with Saudi entrepreneur Mohammed Jawa, who has more than 18 years' experience in the local market.

What to expect and where to sit

The decor at Il Baretto Riyadh is reminiscent of the Italian restaurant's London flagship. Photo: Il Baretto Riyadh

Entry is through massive yet elegant gold-trimmed doors, and the classy decor extends to the interior, which is strewn with Murano glass sculptures.

Il Baretto Riyadh stays true to its charming flagship in Marylebone, London, in terms of signature design elements — low lights, furniture in striking colours and live music. You can easily forget which part of the world you are in. The tables, too, are typically European, in that they are located close to one another and so contribute to the intimate ambience.

The food

Veal Milanese. Photo: Il Baretto Riyadh

Il Baretto is known for dishes that are at once authentic and creative, so ordering pizza or lasagne here would be a massive disservice to the masterfully crafted menu.

My dining partner and I started with the king crab salad with avocado (160 Saudi riyals; $43). Paired with grilled bruschetta and fresh tomatoes ($28), it was the perfect appetiser and the salad was light yet saucy. The special drink of the day, basil infused with lemon, also made a refreshing start to the meal.

For mains, we had the veal Milanese ($85) and lobster linguine ($59). The latter was respectable, but paled in comparison with the veal, which was easily the best in flavour and texture we have tried in Riyadh.

The stand-out dish, however, was the lamb ragout pappardelle ($32) which was in the form of gnocchi — little bites of delight that were soft yet kept their composition with a seamless beauty. The day we dined, the kitchen used some seasonal seaweed in this masterpiece of a dish, giving it an artistic green tinge.

Because this is an Italian restaurant, you might be tempted to get the tiramisu ($23), which we did and greatly enjoyed. However, it was the cassata Siciliana ($16) that truly blows the mind. A cassata is tricky to get right, but the chefs are right on the mark with this one, although the vanilla ice cream it's served with feels unnecessary. Instead we paired it with an Americano for the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity.

The service

The wait staff were very attentive throughout, while parking is plentiful with a valet service available. The place tends to get very busy, very fast, so make sure to reserve a spot well in advance.

Also ensure you discuss choices with the knowledgeable staff and go with their recommendations.

Price point and contact details

The menu is broadly divided into starters that range from $28 to $43; salads that go for $16 to $43; a fish bar that will set you back between $24 and $104; Josper-grilled meats and seafood that depend on the quantity you opt for, but can go up to $295 for the 1.6-kilogram Wagyu tomahawk; and mains and pasta that cost between $32 and $110. Desserts average out at $20 a pop.

Reservations are recommended, and can be made by calling +966 920 012 508 or from the website.

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant

Updated: February 25, 2022, 6:02 PM