Johannesburg is fast becoming the central locale for superb and authentic, Italian restaurants. In a 5km radius you can experience the likes of That's Amore, Stella e Luna, Amacord Osteria Italiana, Stelle and now, the newest Italian Job to join the crew: Moda
Chef Omar Scarabello and his partner Diego Montresor are offering patrons simple, yet luxurious, Italian fare that will delight and excite. It's comfort food at its best and is quite simply, irresistible.
Underneath the menu title is written ‘pizza, pasta and risotto': they have opted to concentrate their attention on ‘antipasti' (starters) and ‘primi' (first) courses and do not offer any ‘secondi' (meat-based dishes that Italians consider to be mains.)
Having said this, the menu does have a wonderfully rich variety of offerings. In the antipasti section you'll find a spectrum of salads, melenzane, carpaccio and seafood - the impetus is always on quality ingredients fashioned with a refined touch. The cuisine itself cannot be defined by one particular region, but rather is an amalgamation of Omar and Diego's favourite Italian dishes and personal creations.
To start we opted for the melenzane; a rich and sumptuous combination of thinly sliced, deep fried aubergine, smoked provolone cheese and a thick and robust tomato sauce - it's everything a melenzane should be and more. We paired this with the fritto di calamari, zucchini con salsa tartara: deep fried pieces of calamari and baby marrow in a light batter with a homemade tartare sauce; a fabulously light and moreish combination of sweet baby marrow and salty squid - fried to perfection.
The pizza selection concentrates on more authentic combinations like tuna and white onions, Italian pork sausage and peppers, porcini mushrooms and Parma ham, grana padano and rocket. They are spectacular - the bases are achingly light due to the quality of the flour and the two day rising process they use to create the dough. It's dangerous to say, but I would argue that this is one of the best pizzas I've ever eaten in Johannesburg.
The pastas are simply enchanting; all of the ravioli, as well as the tagliatelle and tagliolini, are made by hand. The ravioli al basilica (basil ravioli stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and served with a tomato and black olive sauce) and the ravioli di vitello (veal ravioli with a sage butter sauce) are enough to make you weep. And, it doesn't stop there; the risottos, full of butter, Parmesan and all things naughty are as oozy and mouth-watering as they come.
If you have room for dessert, the tiramisu and dark chocolate mousse with amoretti biscuits are just magnificent.
The service is friendly and attentive; you are made to feel welcome and you are treated with care. The venue and atmosphere are casual, with an emphasis on the food and the experience. The restaurant is in an alcove within a parking space just off Jan Smuts, in the same venue as Modo Mia used to be. It's wonderfully secluded, despite being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of surrounding roads and Hyde Park. It's going to be an absolute hit in summer; with their large outdoor space thriving under the starlit Johannesburg sky.
My advice: hurry up and go, before you can't get a booking.
- Kate Liquorish