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Italian Cuisine: Mabrouka
Having eaten Moroccan food almost exclusively for 14 days we opted for something slightly different when we got back to Marrakech from the Atlas Mountains. There was a restauant on Rue Bab Agnaou, near our hotel, called Mabrouka which served typical Moroccan food as well as some western cuisine, so we went here for lunch. We both had margarita pizzas and shared a bottle of water. The pizzas were ok, not amazing, though it was nice to get a break from the Moroccan food.
Our waiter tried to con us with the bill. He asked for 122 Dh but Ruth was pretty sure it was less. After we had paid we went to check the menu and indeed it was. He had overcharged us by 10Dh. When we pointed this out he said it was a service charge though there was nothing about this on the menu. I told him this was illegal and he reluctantly gave us the 10 Dh back.
We also told him we would have happily have left 10 Dh and probably more as tip but because he had tried to con us he wasn't getting anything. This was one of the rare times this has happened in Morocco, and I guess the big numbers of tourists in Morocco means some unscrupulous waiters will try this on. The amounts involved were clearly small (10 Dh = 1 Euro) but it was the principle that was the issue.
Portofino Ristorante Pizzeria: Upmarket Italian restaurant
I ate at Portofino Ristorante Pizzeria one evening during my visit to Marrakech in February 2007.
This upmarket Italian restaurant forms part of the Hotel Islane complex (where I was staying) and is located on Ave Mohamed V, right opposite the Koutoubia minaret. It is a 5 minute walk from Djemaa El Fna square.
The restaurant has an intimate atmosphere with candlelit tables, dim lighting and soft background music. It was practically empty when I dined there, and the few other diners that arrived during my meal were western tourists. The high prices, relative to local cuisine, means that this restaurant is probably out of the price range of many of the locals.
The menu includes a large selection of pizzas (50 - 90 Dhs), as well as pasta dishes, seafood options and beef steaks.
Starters include ham and melon, avocado shrimps, shrimp cocktail and salads, while desserts include fresh fruit, ice cream and tiramisu.
No alcohol is served, so choices of drinks include fruit juices, canned soft drinks, 3 brands of non-alcoholic beer and hot beverages.
I took a seat by the large glass window, with an excellent view of the Koutoubia minaret lit up at night, and watched the throngs of people passing by en route to the Djemaa El Fna.
The service was very friendly and efficient.
Favorite Dish: I opted for:
Cocktail of Shrimps - Cost: 65 Dhs
A nice (but rather expensive) prawn cocktail. Served in a glass dish, with four lettuce leaves topped with a generous serving of small prawns in a thousand island dressing and garnished with tomato and lemon. Accompanied by a complimentary plate of sliced crusty bread topped with diced tomatoes and herbs.
Grilled sea bass - Cost: 130 Dhs
This dish was highly recommended by the waiter, who insisted that it was excellent. Having had sea bass for the first time on a recent trip to Portugal, I decided to give it a try. When it was brought to my table, my meal consisted of one plate containing rice and sliced vegetables (carrots, avocados, cauliflower...) and another containing what appeared to be a large mound of salt. The waiter used a knife to chip into the salt, and it crumbled away to expose a large silver fish beneath it. He then skinned the fish and proceeded to slice four large pieces of white fish from the main skeleton, placing them on the plate with the rice and vegetables. This is apparently how sea bass is cooked and served in France and Spain according to my waiter. The meal was accompanied by tartar sauce and thousand island dressing. The fish was very tasty and, thanks to the waiter's handiwork, contained very few bones!
Schweppes Lemon - Cost: 20 Dhs per 330ml can
Very good Italian food in an intimate setting, but far more expensive than the local cuisine. Recommended!
el Alhambra: Come here for the view
This restaurant was recommended in our guidebook as one of the best of those around the Djamaa el Fna, but I have to report that it was fairly disappointing – apart from the view, which was excellent. I managed to climb the wide stone steps to the first floor terrace, and as another couple was just leaving we were able to secure a table at its front edge, giving us a wonderful view of all the activity below.
We decided to share the Salade Alhambra to start with, a selection of salads served with the tasty flat bread typical of Morocco. The tabouleh and olive tapenade were good, but the hummus (usually my favourite in such selections) was almost tasteless. We were disappointed to find very few Moroccan dishes on the menu, and none that appealed to us, so Chris had a pizza to follow, which he said was slightly odd (the base being made from a local style of bread rather than Italian pizza dough) and I had the penne arrabiata which was OK but not hot enough – either in terms of spiciness or temperature. Alcohol is not served here, as is the case with any restaurant or café in view of a mosque (and this is in view of several), so we drank water and a Coke, and paid 220 dirhams for the meal.
La Trattoria di Giancarlo: Rude, attitude! Not such great food!
I live in Marrakesh and dine out a lot, and can say without hesitation that this is one of my two least favorite restaurants in the city. I've eaten here a number of times and am a fan of good Italian food (there are some other truly good Italian places here! Go to Catanzaro instead!), so I have no particular bone to pick -- other than that the Trattoria consistently shows a pattern of rude service coupled with a feeling that at every turn they're looking to make an extra dime.
To start, they routinely will not seat you at your table when you arrive, instead directing you to the lounge for an aperitif. It's a nice lounge, but sometimes you're hungry and just want to eat -- but you still have to wait. This had happened to me two visits ago -- a 7:45 reservation meant waiting in the lounge because "our table wasn't ready" (and then they didn't tell us that the table was ready, instead waiting on us to order drinks) -- and so during my most recent visit, we arrived a few minutes after our 7:30 reservation, figuring that'd give them enough time to prepare the table. Nope... the first waiter asked if we'd like to wait in the lounge, and I said we'd rather just be seated. Then the host came up and said that our table wasn't ready "because of short staff for Ramadan" and we'd have to wait 10 minutes or so. The Ramadan excuse sounded reasonable, so we said we'd take a seat in the lounge but could they please tell us when the table was ready. Sure enough, we sat down... and waited... and waited, as they were clearly hoping we'd finish our drinks and order more. Finally, after 20-25 minutes, I called the hostess over and asked if we could be seated. She seemed shocked and said we could -- this despite my having asked again, as we ordered drinks, that they'd let us know when the table was ready. When we walked into the dining area, there were four tables already seated and ten waiters on duty. Clearly, our table had been ready (all the tables were seat, and there were more waiters than diners and they'd already started serving the other tables!) -- they were just trying to drive the drinks business. This is twice in a row that I've been kept waiting seriously past my reservation in the lounge.
I ordered a bottle of wine, the least expensive one, only to be told it was out but that they had four other options -- no mention of the price, though! I knew from reading the menu that the other bottles were twice as expensive as what I'd ordered, but the waiter didn't mention that, clearly hoping I'd just be upsold into a more expensive bottle without thinking. When I did ask about the price, he dismissively asked if I wanted to see the menu instead. Obviously, if they're out of the less-expensive wine and don't have other options, c'est la vie... but any good restaurant should inform the client of the price differences instead of trying to slide in a more expensive bottle. I've dined at nice restaurants around the world and I've never just had a bottle that's 2x as expensive offered as a straight-up substitute. Again, it wasn't the price issue per se as the fact that it felt like another way they're trying to drive up the bill that bothered me.
We sat at our table for a good ten minutes before anyone came to take our order, and then they only did because I asked a waiter if we could please order (please note that I wasn't being rude at all during this time; we were polite to the staff despite the poor service, in hopes things would get better!).
Generally, the food has been good if not great (Catanzaro's food is better, for less), though two visits ago, three of the four of us who'd eaten there had stomach problems the following day. The most recent visit's food was decent, although my pasta al pesto was distinctly undercooked, to the point of being almost crunchy -- worse than when I make pasta myself and among the worst pasta I've had in a long time. The pasta alla norma was good, though, and the osso bucco tasty, although somewhat small.
On a smaller note, it's also one of those places that won't let you pour your own wine or water, insisting instead on having the waitstaff do it for you. That's fine, if a bit annoying, in general, but last visit, the waiter actually took the wine away from my wife as she was pouring and walked away with it for a minute before coming back! To be fair, I think he was drying off the bottle (it was a white, from an ice bucket), but to interrupt a client who wanted more wine just to give "better service" was silly and annoying.
The final straw last visit came at the end of the meal. We'd paid our bill and were lingering for a few minutes to finish our final glasses of wine. The waiter came up to the table, looked at the little plate where they'd put the credit card receipt, picked it up, looked under it, said something about "service" and walked away -- clearly, he was looking for a tip and making it clear that we should be tipping! Of course we'd tip if the service were good... but when we were still sitting there, a few minutes before leaving, his coming up to us to tell us specifically that we should tip was gauche and rude. This is a nice restaurant, where I'd just paid USD100 or so, and it'd be rude enough to tell me I'm supposed to tip _as I was getting up to leave_. I wasn't leaving, though, and was still at the table enjoying the last of my wine. For an evening that was colored by the scent of money at every turn, being specifically told I was supposed to tip (for poor service!) was the icing on the cake.
I want to like La Trattoria. It's a pretty setting and we residents need a change from Moroccan cuisine (delicious as it is!) from time to time. But it feels pretentious -- I can deal with that -- and the rudeness and attempts to disguise poor service as overly thoughtful service really bother me. There are other good Italian restaurants around that don't cop an attitude, that respect your reservation, offer equal or better food at significantly better prices and would never think of upselling you on the wine or literally looking around your table for a tip while you're still there. I'll go to those places routinely. I'll never go back to La Trattoria di Giancarlo.
- Food and Dining
Casnova.: Casanova = food poisoning.
I currently live in Marrakesh and have been exploring the local restaurants for the past few months. While Catanzaro is the best Italian restaurant I've dined at so far and hard to say no to, I occasionally try to force myself to try other options (Portofino, random pizzerias etc.). In line with this enforced adventurousness, the other day I decided to try Casanova.
It offered a rather sub-par menu (the people who own it are Venetian so almost the whole thing is sardines and other seafood) at middling prices. In the end, my partner and I ended up splitting the smoked salmon avocado salad and the specialty (which happened to be one of the few items that didn't focus on seafood), the wild mushroom risotto. It was passable but not remarkable.
Both my partner and I have been horribly horribly sick for the past two days with terrible stomach trouble as a direct result of having eaten there. I suppose it was probably the salmon that got us, but that shouldn't have been an issue since I've frequently eaten sushi in Marrakesh with zero problems...
Even without the horrible gut-wrenching ordeal, I would still give Casanova a pass in favor of the numerous better Italian options in town. No restaurant should make one ill and I strongly advise skipping this one. Consider this a public service announcement and stay away!
portofino: italian food with a real italian chef
Portofino Ristorante Pizzeria, a nice Italian restaurant with real italian food (and chef). it's qute a modern restaurant, inside, but not pretentious... quite popular among wealthy Moroccans and Italian ex-pats... very few tourists, despite the fact that it's located opposte the koutoubia.
You can have all possible Italian dishes, there... not only pastas and pizzas. However you can not enjoy your food with a glass of wine, as the restaurant doesn't have an alcohol licence, yet.
Favorite Dish: We had pasta - delicious pasta with courgettes and shirmps... and my partner had home-made gnocchi in simple (and perfect) tomato sauce. Gnocchi are sort of potatoes dumplings, by the way... which was even more delicious than my pasta. We did not have pizza, but they looked really tempting...
Les Terrasses de l'Alhambra: Great pizza, snazzy restaurant
I hate to admit it, but Les Terrasses was my favourite of the various Djemaa el Fna places I tried. I say hate because it's Italian and I try not to eat Italian food on holiday - and I'm not in Italy, naturally. I've always thought of Italian food as the safe haven of people afraid of new tastes. But faced with yet another vegetable tagine/couscous, I cracked...
I'm glad I did. It was here that I first glimpsed a little-known: Morocco is one of the world's best places for pizza. Really. There's great pizza everywhere here. And Les Terrasses is a good example of pizza excellence. The menu is mainly pizzas and pasta dishes, and its the pizza that are particularly good. I went for the aubergine one twice and loved the fluffy, crispy on the bottom base. Because the aubergine was minced, the topping was satisfyingly meaty and rich.
The restaurant is plusher than a lot of the other places on the square, but still good value for money, making it perfect for evening. It's decorated with wrought iron and dark red hues which sets the tone for watching the goings-on in the square below as the sun sets. The intimate atmosphere is appealing to couples in particular. Go early for the best view: the restaurant fills quickly.
Italian Cuisine: Pizzeria Bari
On our final night in Morocco we decided to have a meal on our rooftop terrace. We bought take-away pizzas from Pizzeria Bari on Rue Bab Agnaou, a bottle of red wine from a shop in the Ville Nouvelle and olives and bread from the market and just as dusk was falling we sat out on the lovely terrace and tried to forget that we would be leaving Morocco so soon. These pizzas were far better than the sit down ones we had in Restaurant Mabrouka (on the same street) and the prices were good. For example, it was 32 Dh for a Margarita, and the average price was about 40 Dh.
Italian Cuisine: Pizzeria: Le Chat qui rit "The Laughing Cat"
A Calm and nice place to degustate a 9.99/10 traditionnal Pizza made by a Corsian "La Corse island" specialist!
It's in the top list of the Pizzeras that you will never forget , even if you were an italian ! : )
Favorite Dish: Actually it's a Restaurant where you can find many dishes rather than just Pizza, But Pizza is still my favorite dish in this Resto-Pizzeria !
- Food and Dining
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Little Italy: Atmospheric Little restaurant in hotel
This is a lovely little Italian restaurant at the bottom of a hotel which is set out like a huge riad. Poppy background music wafts around as you relax in the sun-trap pool terrace and snack on bread and chillied olives before your main course.
Favorite Dish: They serve excellent pizzas here - This was our last stop before a long bus trip so we decided to play it safe. Just what we wanted!
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- Food and Dining
RESTAURANT ISLANE279 Av....
279 Av. Mohamed V (in front of the Koutubia). Tel: (212)44 440081.
A nice alternative for traditional morocan cuisine, this italian restaurant has a beautiful terrace facing the Koutubia, not far from Djema el Fnaa. Touristic menu for 120 Dh.
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