There’s Italian food, and then there’s the Italian food we all remember from our childhoods. Even if it wasn’t made by our own mama’s, it was probably dished up in a smaller-than-average eatery with a red-checked table cloth and a candle stuck in an old Chianti bottle – but what the restaurant lacked in décor, it made up for in flavour. Cheers to a new generation of real-deal Italian eateries!
You may already have sampled Graziella’s lasagnes at some of Joburg’s larger markets. Now, you have a cosy corner on the Parkhurst strip to tuck into the paper thin sheets of pasta that made her famous. Her gnocchi is also unmissable and, if it’s lunchtime, a platter of roast vegetables, Italian cheese and meats (you can pick and choose from a sizeable selection) hits the spot every time.
Franco’s Pizzeria & Trattoria
It’s too busy to be classified as a neighbourhood local but, really, that’s what Franco’s is: the kind of place where the owners know your name, and chat pleasantly to you while they’re dishing up their robust pastas. We’re especially fond of the seafood risotto, a creamy antidote to Winter blues.
A Kensington Street institution since 1992, Ottimo’s is the kind of place that you take the family when it’s a Wednesday night and you can’t stand the thought of cooking. The vibe is buzzy and relaxed, the pizza base thin and crispy, and the food tastes like it’s just been flown over from Rome. There’s a large range of vegetarian options, too.
Although it’s usually pasta or pizza that springs to mind when the Italian craving strikes, the star of the show at this homey spot is the house salad; it’s popularity bearing testimony to the freshness and quality of ingredients. The gnocchi with butter and sage is another simple yet surprisingly tasty option.
Ristorante La Trinita
Owned by a mother and daughter team, La Trinita has a loyal following in love with the flair and hospitality that are the essence of this restaurant. Sit back as the chef describes the dishes in detail – it’s a personal touch that will make you feel as welcome as if you were at your mother’s house. The carpaccio and seafood pasta are firm favourites.
Don’t even think of arriving here without a booking! It’s easy to see why this place is in such high demand: the veal is heavenly, the suppli and arancini are scrumptious, and the pastas (homemade from scratch) get two thumbs up.
The words “hidden gem” spring up with almost every mention of this tucked away Oaklands spot. Regulars swear that you can taste the pride that every meal is cooked with, especially the cream and mushroom tortellini. The tiramisu is also rumoured to be the best in Johannesburg.
This sunny spot has a compulsively linger-longer feel to it. The melanzane is an excellent lunch option, and do try the lasagne with Brie and asparagus. And if you can manage to leave without sampling some of Chef Jacqui’s exquisite pastries, your willpower is to be commended!