Totó is a find.

While not quite fine dining, Totó is a white tableclothed affair centering around the golden age of Cinema Paradiso, and brings a sense of style we think is unmatched in it's genre in Abu Dhabi. The menu is broad, but not absurd and watching the chefs at work adds a buzz to the restaurant, giving instant ambiance.

It's not often I would consider either Christiano Ronaldo or Rafael Nadal to be irrelevant, but their fame seems insignificant when compared to the carefully, thoughtfully put together end result that is Totó.

It's stylish yet welcoming.

It's chic but the food is central, not who's there.

It's excellent but well-priced.

And most importantly, it's just what Abu Dhabi needs.

The restaurant is well-proportioned and beautifully designed to reflect the Golden Age of Italian cinema. The moody vibe is intensified by the fabulous lighting and amazing quirks - without wishing to be crass, the bathroom is incredible!

For me, there are four great places to sit in Toto.

You can sit near the bar, watching the mixologists put together fabulous bespoke cocktails using the best Italian ingredients: tomatoes, grappa, limoncello, Aperol and Campari ... take a bow!

If you love a different kind of show, sit near one of the two open kitchens and watch the chefs work: plates coming to the pass, pizzas being expertly shoved in and out of the oven, dishes being started and finished ... it's absolutely mesmerising for a foodie like me!

And in cooler weather, the terrace, with views of the Arabian Gulf, is perfect.

The very approachable Chef Christiano Ballantino walks us through the menu which encompasses everything from excellent antipasti options and seafood favourites to succulent meat dishes, stews, traditional-meets-modern pastas, pizzas and great desserts.

After the somewhat high end bread basket, we swooned over the scallops, beautifully plated but most importantly soft and flavourful in a tomato reduction. The crunchy, cheesy suppli came in a trio and the signature vitello tonnato was absolutely sublime and a must-try when you go!

The lamb rack arrived in a world of vibrant green, crusted with pistachio with finely sliced potato on the side and an accompanying jus - this was an excellent meat dish. I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the pasta options - I'm heading back for the duck canneloni lasagne with foie! - come in between AED85 and AED100, while the mains are mostly around AED180.

Desserts almost stole the show! We loved thebeautiful smooth creme brulee being caramelised tableside, with manager Daniel Lubina expertly wielding the blow torch! The very pretty panna cotta, adorned with a ton of beautiful fresh fruit was another favourite, but possibly the one we think will be the most popular is chocolate textures, a delicious mess of brownie, chocolate shards, sponge, mousse and with a rich chocolate sauce poured over. Either gird your loins, roll up your sleeves and go it alone, or prepare to share! The tiramisu wasn't to my taste, but is perfect if you love a looser, lighter option.

Music from the Golden Age hums along in the background (I admit to humming too!) very much adding to the vibe and I understand there'll be a live singer in the weekends.

It was hard to leave Toto. We were made to feel very welcome and I think the menu has enough points of difference to make it a much better option for a date night, a friends catch-up or a family meal than most other places in Abu Dhabi. It's also a great addition to Mamsha, and I'll go again at the first opportunity. More importantly, I feel confident sharing this with some of my somewhat discerning (ok fussy!) friends who love good food and good drinks - and with you, of course!

TOTÓ Restaurant Abu Dhabi, Mamsha Al Saadiyat

Opens its doors April 13th

Open: 12PM -12AM/1AM Fridays and Saturdays

Reservations: 02 643 02 28

Parking: park underground in the first parking at Mamsha Al Saadiyat.

What to wear? Smart casual for sure, don't be rocking in in your beachy stuff!

Rachael Partington