The Italian Job

Singing waiters, imaginative food and kitsch decoration in Doha Discuss this article

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It feels like we’re on a journey to grandmother’s house trying to get to the Italian Job. In order to reach the restaurant, you have to leave the shelter of the hotel building, cross the garden, go over a bridge, past the pool, and voila: Italy.

Well, sort of. Inspired by the movie The Italian Job, the restaurant is decked out in a mix of Italian kitsch and celebrity and car memorabilia. The waiters wear pit-crew-inspired jump suits as they serve you at round café-style tables. Despite the quirky ambiance, we almost don’t get a table, even though it’s a Saturday night, it’s so booked up.

Once we hit the menu we begin to suspect why. Like much at the Ramada, the prices are imminently reasonable, and more importantly, the menu, although stuffed with Italian phrases and dishes, isn’t incomprehensible. My friend, on her first foray out as my dining companion and giddy with review delight, goes for the frito croccante, the seafood platter to start. I, knowing full well there’s three cheese-and-pasta-rich courses ahead of me, decide to be adventurous and try two things I very rarely have: artichokes and pasta in my soup. The soup involves a cream of artichoke heart soup with bits of cheese tortellini floating in it – sounds intriguing.

Our server is busy but available, and our food comes out quickly and piping hot: we’re still working our way through the bread basket, and once our starters are placed down I’m getting nervous the small table will collapse.

After awkwardly repositioning ourselves so we can move our elbows and still see, we tuck in. My friend’s seafood is a massive heap of deep-fried delight: fish, calamari and shrimp, and who knows how many other creatures of the deep, all battered and fried and dipped in tartar sauce. The fish and the shrimp don’t disappoint, being surprisingly lightly battered and fried and rich in flavour, but the calamari is soggy and incredibly chewy: like taking a bite out of a shoe. A round, squid-flavoured shoe. My soup, however, is fantastic. Although the pasta is just pasta and nothing terrifically special, the soup around it is flavourful, creamy without being cloying, and makes me seriously reconsider my long-held position on artichokes.

But we can’t stop there, so next up is mains: for myself, the Italian classic, lasagne bolognaise, on the premise that any home-style Italian restaurant worth its parmesan should be able to nail a really good lasagne. My friend opts for the spaghetti carbonara, spaghetti topped with sauce made from sausage and peppers. Once again these arrive almost before we’ve finished our appetisers, and the mad don’t-overload-the-table dance begins again. When everything is settled, we tuck in. My friend’s spaghetti is a massive plate of pasta, with rich red sauce and spicy sausage. Her high praise? ‘I can’t tell it’s just beef sausage.’ High praise indeed.

My lasagne also makes me happy, although it is catering to the part of my palate that still really likes Chef Boyardee in cans. Slightly overcooked, the pasta is so tender it just falls apart, just this side shy of mushy. But it’s stuffed between layer after layer of cheese, sauce and meat, all baked so the top is crispy and fantastic, and it reminds me of lasagnes I’d had as a picky-eating child, where my mother would bury vegetables in the cheese. It’s not fancy, but it’s solid and satisfying. It’s also massive: both my friend and I soldier forth, but our forks are no match for the Italian Job’s portion sizes. We both end up with doggy bags (and the promise of cold lasagne later on).

But it’s not even really the food that’s the draw at the Italian Job: it’s the singers. Somehow, this place has ended up with the long-standing tradition of waiters who, in the midst of dinner, wander the crowd serenading patrons with karaoke classics and encouraging them to sing along. While we wait for dessert, one reaches our table, and it’s an experience to hear ‘Country Roads’ belted out in an Italian restaurant in the Middle East. He only lasts one country standard and half a weepy love song before a large group at a table nearby beckons him over, and we see the point: this is dinner theatre, coupled with solid comfort food.

But, dessert has to be seen to, and so we both peruse the menu while rubbing our stuffed bellies. With very little room left, barely enough even for one wafer-thin mint, we both go for the chocolate mousse; a light frothy confection the menu says involves a touch of mint. When it arrives, it’s a heaping portion of chocolate riding atop a caramel cage: you have to break through the peanut-brittle tasting dish to make it to the mint sauce beneath. And while the sauce is so subtle it’s barely noticeable, and my dining companion and I differ on that brittle cage (I’m pro caramel brittle, she’s against), we both agree: we would like to bathe in this mousse. It’s dark, it’s fluffy, it’s creamy, it’s everything a mousse should be and more than worth the over-stuffed struggle to the car afterwards.

The Italian Job is a solid choice. The service is good, the food is smack in that comfort food zone that screams ‘this will always be consistently good’, even if it’s never going to make your palate wake up and dance around like some of the other more experimental Italian restaurants in the city. And with a fun, quirky atmosphere (once again: the singing), and reasonable prices, there’s a reason this has long been a favourite stop for group gatherings in Qatar. The mousse especially will have us coming back.

The bill (for two)
1x Soup artichokes
QR55
1x Frito croccante QR56
1x Lasagne bolognaise QR70
1x Spaghetti carbonara QR52
1x Aqua Panna QR16.67
2x Chocolate mousse QR76
1x Cappuccino QR13
Total QR355.34

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: Radisson Blu Hotel Doha, Rawdat Al Khail, Doha
  • Tel: 4428 1555
  • Travel: C Ring Road

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