The setting is casual and so is the ambience; it’s a small restaurant with approximately 10 tables all dappled in red and white checker cloths; walls painted in Tuscan colours and a sweet mural of a balcony accentuated with a real metal frame and miniature, hanging laundry. Individual lamps hang above each table to give a sense of intimacy and, with one waitress and the owner/manager as your hostesses for the evening, the service is very personal.
There is a glass wall that divides the kitchen and the restaurant which
allows the patrons to watch Lorenzo and his assistants prepare each
dish, with the occasional artistic flurry of hands and the occasional
burst of eccentricity, it’s a lovely touch and makes you feel that much
closer to Italy.
We began our culinary journey with an array of Antipasti: A ‘Caprese’ salad with imported Buffalo Mozzarella from chef and co-owner Lorenzo Corleo's hometown; when you’ve tasted authentic Buffalo mozzarella, you understand the quality it should have – like soft pillows that tear apart gently at the slightest touch. Pair that with gorgeous olive oil, a touch of oregano, fresh tomato and a single basil leaf and you have their ‘Caprese’ salad.
We also tried the ‘Impepata di Cozze’ (Mussels in black pepper in garlic) – delicate, light and fresh, it’s a dish that allows the mussels to shine through rather than making them act as a mere vehicle for a sauce. It’s a simple broth made up of the juices from the mussels, a little seasoning, garlic and sumptuous mussels, which I found refreshing and different.
The ‘Gamberi alla Napoletana’ (Tiger prawns with chilli and garlic) were as fresh as you can get and as succulent as you could ever wish for – just a delight. Finally the ‘Calamari affagati con Patate’(Calamari and potato in fresh tomato on bruschetta ) were perfectly cooked with no trace of sugar in the tomato sauce, just the naturally sweetened taste of tomato created by slow cooking, with a dash of fresh herbs.
For mains we indulged in Lorenzo’s famous hand-made gnocchi, made from a recipe so sacred that everyone has to leave the kitchen before he makes it. I have never had, and don’t think I ever will have, gnocchi as soft and as slight as his, it almost melted in your mouth, the restaurant is worth a visit just so that you can appreciate this.
We also had to try the ‘Osso Bucco’, made with green peas and white wine and served with polenta, a dish that Lorenzo only makes when he can get the best veal shin; it was superb, moreish and ‘fall-off-the-bone’ succulent.
There is no excess oil in Lorenzo’s food; it is rich but never fatty and a sense of ‘al dente’ flows through his menu; a respect for the ingredients and a love for cooking every dish. The pastas and gnocchi are all made fresh every day and everything is prepared on site with the utmost care, which is something you really can taste and feel.
The wine list is strictly Italian which may be hard for some to grasp, but they have designed it as such because it offsets the food so beautifully; light reds and fragrant, perfumed whites allow the freshness of the food to shine through and compliment it beautifully.
The dessert menu is short and sweet: the Tirimisu is only made if Lorenzo can get the right eggs, the ‘Affagato’ made with delicious gelato and good espresso put a smile on my dial and the Neapolitan desserts were delightful; we also tried the ‘Sciu al Caffe’a dish similar to a pannacotta with a splash of coffee was the perfect ‘cherry on top’ to a pretty perfect night out.
Prices range between R80 and R116 for starters and R80 and R180 for mains, desserts are around R60.
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- Kate Liquorish