Cico’s has always been synonymous with tradition, so it seems fitting that the restaurant has welcomed Italian duo Executive Chef Federico Allegri and his manageress wife Elisa into its family.
We are all for the perks of the job, but nothing can make us happier (especially when the temperatures are dropping!) than the staple that is Cico’s Restaurant, whilst previewing its smile-inducing Xmas Menu for extra brownie points. So, in true OHLALA fashion, we grabbed our gaggle of girls and made a beeline for the heart of Adliya. As we walked into the restaurant, the fusion of simplicity and luxury – a vein running throughout as we soon discovered – struck us immediately. The décor was minimalist, but sophisticated. The trattoria-style lighting features created a unique ambience and the wooden panelling harked back to travels of yesteryear. Wroughtiron accents and vineyard-inspired elements hanging from exposed beams and wooden flooring provided plenty of homely, atmospheric charm. Meanwhile, crisp checkered tablecloths, walls adorned with photos of customers over the years, and welcoming staff further gave an indication of the quality of things to come. Executive Chef Federico Allegri has been a force in Italian cuisine for many years. Born in Torino, he has clung to his Piedmont regional roots as an artisan chef and gains much inspiration from the rural tradition of cooking where the land and its produce dominates. It is no surprise that he has crafted his dishes, service, and presentation to such a height that he has worked alongside a cascade of Michelin-starred chefs and restaurants throughout his career, amongst other revered
culinary accolades. On a more personal note, Federico met his wife Elisa back in 2007 at a Michelin-starred restaurant while they were working for Vintage 1997 in Torino, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. She has dominated front of house throughout their love affair and upholds her reputation as the best in hospitality. Elisa’s energy is uplifting, and it effortlessly sets the tone for the remainder of the evening. Between their wealth of experience, it’s only fitting that these two lovebirds have chosen Bahrain to provide an additional dynamic to the GCC’s oldest Italian restaurant – Cico’s was established in 1978 – and embrace it wholeheartedly. As we took our seats and perused the menu, the selection of dishes was inspiring, yet reassuringly familiar. Land, sea, and air options fulfilled our desire for traditional Italian staples whilst carrying with them unique additions. We set about our evening by ordering burrata and scallops. This really set the precedent for the remainder of the menu, as we were thankful for the decadence of that burrata – the white, chewy ball oozed a creamy filling with a texture like runny ricotta when we cut it open. As for its flavour? Almost indescribable. The sweet, rich cream and curds are the essence of freshness and delicacy, yet simultaneously the most intensely milky thing you’ve ever eaten. The freshly seared scallops went down a treat, too, and the generous portions were noted with glee! The showstopper up until this point was undoubtedly the tortellini. No normal mind would be able to envisage such flavours being such a culinary triumph for the palate. The freshly made tortellini casing cradled the parmesan beautifully, while the freshly imported shavings of white truffles from Alba (Tuber Magnatum Pico) provided an additional symphony to the dish. We’d be remiss not to mention the smoked salmon with fennel, which proved a worthy competitor as it was balanced with a myriad of delicate flavours that allowed its flesh to melt in your mouth, with the skin providing a crispy accompaniment.
“It is no surprise that he has crafted his dishes, service, and presentation to such a height that he has worked alongside a cascade of Michelinstarred chefs and restaurants throughout his career, amongst other revered culinary accolades.”
One of the things that most frustrates Italians about non-Italians is their inability to treat pasta as anything other than a main dish. It is designed to fit seamlessly between a starter and main course of either meat or seafood. At Cico’s, the inspirational pasta and risotto dishes inject age-old traditional staples with a touch modernity. However, the core techniques and tastes lie firmly rooted in Italian heritage, all executed in a manner reminiscent of a homely farmhouse kitchen or – in our case – a beloved eatery. The Pumpkin Risotto with Scallops was nothing short of amazing as we lapped up each morsel of plumped rice, each grain infused with all the ingredients that Chef Federico had nurtured it with. As our secondi piatti arrived, the aromas that rose from our platters caused us all to inhale a little more deeply. The presentation of turkey with all the trimmings and hearty mashed potato had us sitting around the table in silence, only to be broken by the occasional oohs and aahs. One of our dining companions was a vegan, and she was elated that there was a Butternut Squash Wellington main course for her to feel like she was part of the festive celebrations. I’ve never seen her so quiet either and, after some playful jesting across the table, she implored me to try it. “Wow, I was not expecting that,” pursed through my lips. This place really does cater to all, which is such a blessing, especially when it comes to catering to everyone across December! Speaking of which, reservations are highly recommended to secure yourself and your family a table this Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Cico’s also has a Festive Party Menu running until December 23 with a key selection of signature dishes for you to enjoy. The conclusion to dinner arrived in the form of a drinks cart, with espresso muddled drinks to elevate the party experience – again, a true mouthful of Italian heritage. The interactive element of tableside after-dinner drinks was special, to say the least. I felt I would struggle to walk to the car after this plethora of culinary expertise, but I have no regrets. Cico’s festive menu is a journey of self-discovery. There was something new to taste with every bite, and I don’t care how cliché that sounds. When you audibly gasp at the sight of what’s put in front of you, you know it’s one of those experiences you’ll remember forever – it’s no wonder the restaurant is revered across Bahrain. Whether you’re a carnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, let Cico’s welcome your family into theirs.
Call 1771 3710 for reservations and more information. @cicosrestaurant