If you have ever seen the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, Scalini is a good place to remember it. This bistro-style establishment has been a mainstay in Riyadh for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until I ate there recently that I realized that we have never covered it here in the blog. Amazingly, there are still a lot of restos out there we have frequented that we haven’t written about just yet! Isn’t that exciting? We have more to write about for you! Anyway, many long-time Riyadhizens may already know about this place already but for those who haven’t, Scalini is an Italian restaurant located inside the Diplomatic Quarters (DQ). Given the (on and off) tight security that comes along with entering the DQ, it’s understandable how not a lot of people can simply frequent the place.
Once inside, you will find a simple and rustic ambiance, detailed by brown marble floors and big wooden windows. There is house music for your auditory pleasure and don’t be surprised to see tables of diplomats and embassy professionals in a hearty chitchat. Since you’d be inside the DQ, it is permissible for non-Muslim ladies to not be in their abayas so don’t be shocked, yeah?
My girlfriend L and I had a quick lunch there some days ago and since she was working inside the DQ, she was also a regular customer of Scalini and already knew what she wanted to order as we arrived. I, on the other had, took some time to review the items on their menu and decide. If you’re anything like me, it could take ten years! Haha. Picking an item on a menu is a true test of one’s decision-making skills don’t you agree? 🙂
Don’t let the Italian names dishearten you. They are promptly followed by straight-to-the-point descriptions in English so you won’t have to worry. You will also notice that their price range is quite affordable. It is one of the reasons why a lot of their guests come back because when it comes value for their money, Scalini can’t go wrong.
While waiting for our order, we were served with some freshly baked flatbread and the staple tapenade we usually find in Italian restaurants. Tapenades are finely chopped olives (either green or black) and douched in olive oil. I’m not always fond of the taste of it in other restos but I particularly enjoyed this one a lot. I ended up finishing everything on the saucer and almost forgot that oh yeah, we actually ordered main course meals. Nadala sa kwentuhan kasi. Hehe.
This starter was served in a lovely heart-shaped plate which was timely because I really, really fell in love with this dish. First and foremost, it’s made of cheese! (What’s not to love?) And secondly, it wasn’t like your fast-food-y kind of mozzarella sticks that were oily and unflavorful. This was the complete opposite. It was crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside and really full of cheese in every bite. The marinara sauce that went along with it deserves a standing ovation too (if not, another order of it instead) because it reeked of fresh goodness and tastiness to good to ever forget. Again, I had to restrain myself from finishing all of these because there are still main course meals ahead.
This is spinach ravioli in cream sauce that was delectable in every bite. A great option for those avoiding meat-y meals.
Here was a breaded chicken breast with melted mozarella and a side dish of spaghetti marinara and buttered vegetables. It was a filling dish considering there were two breaded breast fillets on the plate. It was well-cooked and the chicken was very tender inside, I almost thought it was made of veal. The vegetables were blanched and cooked properly, which is I could say a lot better than some of the franchise restaurants where I’ve had side veggies. As for the pasta, honestly, I wasn’t able to eat it because I was feeling full already.
For 8 slices of quesadillas, wow! This was a lot. My friend was the one who ordered this and we were surprised that it was one whole plate! We were only expecting like three to four pieces of quesadillas as we were used to in other places, but apparently it’s not the case in Scalini. Haha! It was smokey and rich in flavor but a little tricky to eat if you’re going to use your hands because some of the stuff can fall out. I think this order is good for like two to three people already.
We didn’t get any of the fancy drinks and just had water and overall, we were stuffed by the end of our lunch hour! Service was pleasing and waiters were attentive. The main course took a while to be delivered, but since my friend and I were engrossed in catching up, I think we weren’t too bothered by it. In my general knowledge, there are still some hits and misses in their menu so I won’t say everything will be perfect for your tastebuds.
I’d recommend Scalini if you’re planning to go for an affordable and down-to-earth kind of evening out with a group. The only discouraging part would be how to get past the security of the DQ. I can’t say for sure because some days they’d let you in even if you just say your going to Scalini but on some days they don’t – so I can’t assure you of that. One thing I can assure you though, your tummy and wallet won’t be disappointed.
Scalini – Ristorante Italiano
Also accepting catering and banquet services
T: 011-481-0569 or 011-481-0621