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THE DISH: A little Italy in Kenya

Saturday January 26 2019

The quatre stagioni pizza served at Osteria, Malindi.

The quatre stagioni pizza served at Osteria, Malindi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

ABIGAIL ARUNGA
By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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I've never been to Malindi (or Italy for that matter, but give me some time to remedy that).

I've landed at the airport, yes, on my way to somewhere else, and I've eaten at restaurants in Malindi, yes, but I haven't been, been. You know what I mean? Like experienced the city outside its sanitation, or spent the night there. People do say that one of the best way to experience a culture is to eat the food – and not at somewhere fancy.

The Mediterranean salad.

The Mediterranean salad. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

That being said, I do like fancy, or relatively fancy, places. Places that have nice napkins and tables dressed up.

The first time I was in Malindi, I was taking a friend to the airport from Watamu, and because we were super early for the flight (apparently if you get to Malindi airport 2 or 3 hours before, they won't let you just sit at the airport, because the doors to the gates and check in areas are literally locked?), we decided to go have some pizza at Osteria. And that's where I caught the Osteria bug.

The risotto.

The risotto, which was a bit of a disappointment  PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

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I've never actually been to the Osteria in Nairobi. Strange, I know, considering that this is, more often than not, my stomping ground. Actually, let me correct myself – I've never been to the major Osteria branches, namely the one in Karen and the one on Lang’ata Road.

There was a time there was an Osteria in the middle of town, across City Hall, which I used to frequent because of its large wine and food portions, and agreeable pricing, and I was quite sad when it closed down for reasons unbeknownst to me.

While in Malindi last week, though, the Osteria bug caught me again and I decided to visit once more. You know the rule – I usually give a place at least three chances before I vote wholeheartedly for it or write it off like a bad loan.

The place settings at the Osteria in Malindi on Delonix Lane.

The place settings at the Osteria in Malindi on Delonix Lane. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

FINDING MY WAY

There are two Osterias in Malindi, and this might confuse you a bit, because the Google Maps directions for the second location are massively off (I've tried to change that with their edit function, though).

It used to be that if you look for Osteria, you're directed to a random location which turns out to be a villa with no food service whatsoever and a puzzled man answering the door.

The pool with an extended view of the beach at the Osteria in Malindi - the one on Delonix Lane.

The pool with an extended view of the beach at the Osteria in Malindi - the one on Delonix Lane. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

What you're looking for is either the one on Delonix Lane, which has a nice big sign on the road and winds down all the way to the beach – not the one that says 80200 Casuarina Road. This one is called Osteria Beach Bar and Restaurant, and the one that is on Sea Front Road (down the road from the famed Old Man and the Sea, which I'm reviewing next) is called, on Maps, Osteria Restaurant and Ice Cream – a satellite extension, I assume, from the main beach outlet, with the same menu and ambience just as nice.

That's one thing I do love about Osteria – the ambience is wonderful. If you go at dusk, to the one on Sea Front Road, the romantic feel of the place is palpable. We had a lovely waitress who showed us where to sit and recommended things on the menu, maintaining a professional distance and banter that did not feel forced as she served us.

The deadly Cuba Loco.

The deadly Cuba Loco. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

I had pizza, which is what I came for, and ice cream, which is something you have to have if you're in an Italian restaurant. I had the quattro stagioni pizza, which I've just read is supposed to be representative of the four seasons (how did I have absolutely no idea about this?) - the “artichokes represent spring, tomatoes or basil represent summer, mushrooms represent autumn, and the ham or olives represent winter.”

I also had a deadly cocktail – because of my predilection for anything Cuban, my eye was immediately drawn to a drink called the Cuba Loco – Captain Morgan, lime, sugar and Coke. It sounds standard until you knock one back and feel the effects immediately. I only had the one, because I still wanted to walk out of the restaurant after the meal instead of crawl. Ha.

Vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Vanilla ice cream for dessert. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The ice cream was lovely, but I think our even lovelier waitress oversold the risotto. And the pizza was such a win for me, I had the exact same one when I went to the next branch...

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Wondering where to get the 411 on what's happening in and around Nairobi's foodie scene? There's a lot of places you could go, but here's where we want you to be – getting the dish on the dish. Get it? We knew you would.

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