Below Tyger Valley centre at the Tyger Waterfront, filed away neatly between retail offices and corporate headquarters is this cozy, Italian restaurant that is equal parts converted barn and traditional family front room. Most evenings the room is packed with hungry patrons, some sipping red wine and some colouring with crayons, all here for the delicious traditional Italian offerings.
At Pizza Vesuvio, there is a strong lean towards pizza, in the traditional Neapolitan style. Owner Gerrado was born and raised in Napoli, the ancestral home of pizza, and takes tremendous pride in his 72-hour fermented dough. Baked in the wood fired oven, the crust bubbles up in crisp domes, chewy and elastic, as they release warm yeasty steam with each bite. The fresh tomato sauce is a bright scarlet, that zings with acidity and tang. The Fior di latte cheese melted, but retained just a bit of squeaky chew. My only regret is that there wasn’t more crust to squeegee up the sauce drips.
The menu changes regularly, and whenever Silvana gets her hands on something special from her network of suppliers. The menu pillars are pizza, fresh pasta and grilled dishes, with added daily blackboard specials featuring customer favourites such as slow-cooked lamb shank, salmon and squid ink risotto with mint.
The gnocchi with wild boar sausage was rich in flavour, while remaining light in texture. The gnocchi pillows were no bigger than a raspberry, and their light interior was a unique experience. The strong fennel flavour was a delight – and the different components all worked effortlessly together to create a dish that despite my never tasting before, filled me with a nostalgia usually reserved for Christmas foods.
I was completely unprepared for Silvana’s desserts. She gave us a taster of three of her best loved and most requested dishes – flourless almond chocolate cake, a limoncello tiramisu and a layered Nutella chocolate cake. The almond cake was slightly warmed, and had a rich fudgy texture. It demanded a single espresso, and our waiter, Alex bought us one almost immediately.
The limoncello tiramisu was everything I could have dreamed it to be – zesty whipped clouds of Mascarpone interlaced with liqueur-soaked sponge. The house made limoncello is the magic ingredient here. The layered Nutella cake was no pretentious dish, but goodness how delicious. Layers of Nutella ganache and milk chocolate cake – it was simple and with good reason, one of her top sellers.
The room is a fair size, and the staff bustle around energetically. Alex found the perfect balance between offering succinct but sufficient descriptions of the dishes, while still giving us room to chat and to pour our own wine.
I was recently given some excellent food advice: the pizza that is the best is the one that you can’t stop thinking about. And I can’t stop thinking about the chewy crust bubbles of Pizza Vesuvio’s Margherita. The food at Pizza Vesuvio is simultaneously familiar yet challenging, and after dining with Silvana and her family, I feel as if I have visited a little pocket of Italy, in my own city.
Shop 5 and 6 Canal Edge Walk Way Carl Cronje Drive, Cape Town, 7530
Reservations: 021 914 1414