Embarking on a culinary journey, Apple Sharma indulged in authentic Italian cuisine at the Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention & Spa’s La Pergola restaurant.

La Pergola, one of Bahrain’s oldest Italian eateries, is renowned for its elegant setting and traditional flavours. It’s been a while since my last visit, so I was excited to reacquaint myself with this all-time favourite.

Upon arrival for lunch, we were warmly greeted by the recently joined Restaurant Manager, Giuseppe Casciaro, and Head Chef Wakil Jetu. As my dining companion and I took our seats at a table by the window, we couldn’t help but notice the inviting ambience. With pleasant Italian music filling the air, the modern Mediterranean-style setting had a perfect balance of daylight and mood lighting, creating a cosy yet lively atmosphere. Edison bulbs hung from the ceiling and accents of bubble patterns were displayed throughout the décor, from the table lamps to the surrounding backlit wooden panels.

We made ourselves comfortable as the chef walked us through the menu, explaining the dishes we were about to taste – all from the Chef’s Specials. Our gastronomic adventure began with warm bread served with olive tapenade and whipped butter – a simple yet comforting introduction to the meal, whetting our appetites for the delights to follow.

First up were the salads. The Burrata Pugliese, one of my favourites, featuring soft, silky, melt-in-the-mouth burrata cheese paired with tomato coulis, semi-sundried cherry tomatoes (slow cooked at 60°C for three hours) and basil oil, was a delicious start to the meal. Next was Insalata di Cavolo, a new signature kale salad with pickled beetroot, roasted almonds, dried cranberries and parmesan cheese, tossed in a lemon balsamic dressing, garnished beautifully with a crisp tuile and micro herbs. The crunchiness of the finely chopped leaves and nuttiness of the almonds added a lovely texture, while the sweetness of the cranberries cut through the acidity for a harmonious blend of flavours. I’m not usually a big fan of kale but this little bowl of vibrant green goodness has most certainly transformed me into, dare I say, a kale lover.

With our palates off to a great start, we moved on to the Primo Piatto, or first course, as we were presented with more tantalising options. First to arrive was Lasagna di Carne, a newly introduced signature dish, featuring thin and crispy layers of homemade pasta, with creamy béchamel and rich beef ragu, topped with mozzarella cheese and dollops of pesto and basil garnish. Slightly different from a regular lasagna, this dish featured round sheets of fresh pasta, cooked à la minute. Comforting yet indulgent, it disappeared from the plate as quickly as it arrived! Meanwhile, the Rigatoni al Limone e Salvia offered a simple classic, with generous sized rigatoni tubes smothered in a creamy lemon sauce, comprising garlic, cream, lemon zest and juice, finished with parsley and garnish of sage. It offered a delightful tanginess to the entire dish.

Embracing classic Italian tradition, the portions at La Pergola are ideal for sharing, which my dining companion and I were happy to follow as we proceeded to the Secondo Piatto or main course. A vibrant plate of chef’s signature Pesce al Forno arrived at the table, presenting a locally caught black sea bass served with a medley of colourful courgettes and cherry tomatoes. Grilled for a little caramelisation and then topped with veggies and baked in the oven, the fish was cooked to perfection – soft, flaky and golden. With a hint of chili, it paired beautifully with the crunchy veggies and aromatic fennel, creating a marriage made in heaven.

No Italian meal would be complete without the classic dessert, Tiramisu. And at La Pergola, it is famous for its live preparation. Watching the skilled chef construct it tableside added an interactive element to the dining experience. And the taste? A true coffee lovers’ delight – simply divine! The rich flavours of espresso-soaked savoiardi, layered with creamy mascarpone cheese, a hint of vanilla and topped with generous sprinklings of cocoa danced on the palate, leaving a lingering sweetness that was the perfect finale to the feast.

As we sipped our hot Americano coffee to round off the meal, we couldn’t help but reflect on the culinary journey we had experienced at La Pergola. Using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients, Chef Wakil’s fine dining experience shines through in all his creations and we can see why Giuseppe sings his praises, commenting that, as an Italian himself, he couldn’t prepare more authentic dishes than the chef.

So, if you’re looking for a true taste of Italy in the heart of Bahrain or simply seeking an elevated dining experience, a visit to La Pergola is a must. ✤