Race season is nearly upon us, with iconic events like the Two Oceans Marathon and Cape Town Cycle Tour around the corner.
If you are looking for some top-notch spots to carbo-load (not that you need any excuse to eat pasta), Cape Towns Italian dining scene is where it is at. A chewy pizza with a perfect crust, pillowy ravioli, oozy risotto, or freshly-made linguini: the Mother City makes it just like nonna. Buon appetito!
Best for pizza: Burrata
Voted the best pizza in South Africa, Burrata is far from your average trattoria. Cooked in less than 90 seconds in an oven imported from Naples, the beautiful pizzas (made from fermented dough) are “puffy” as well as crispy. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Begin, of course, with the creamiest, salty and fluffy pillows of burrata – served in four different ways. Sample the innovative antipasti, before ordering the star of the show. Have your Neopolitan style pizza in bianco (no tomato sauce) or rosso (with tomato sauce). Layer on delicious toppings like slow-cooked pork, squid, goat cheese, caramelised onion, and fennel sausage, or go for the classics like prosciutto and rocket. Save room for their desserts because you would not want to miss the tiramisu, the ginger and apricot semifreddo, with chocolate ginger cremeso and pistachio sable biscuit or the olive oil panna cotta served with naartjie compote and hazelnut crumble – bellissima!
Best for pasta: The Cousins
As the name suggests, two cousins from Romagna, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, have lived in (and loved) Cape Town for many years but felt there was not a place in the city where they could find the simple, authentic Italian food they had grown up with, in their homeland.
So joining their skills, they opened The Cousins Trattoria, where they make fresh pasta every morning, amongst other classic Italian delicacies.
Enjoy the special welcoming plate of Gnocco Fritto, fried dough with air pockets, light as a feather. Then tackle the hard task of choosing a main. If in doubt, go for the signature dish. Hot mushroom and thyme-infused tagliolini is tossed in half a wheel of Grana Padano cheese. Each strand is coated in cheesy goodness as you marvel at the theatre of the finishing process at your table. The gnocchi too is a wonderful option. Served with bolognese ragu, every saucy, soft mouthful is a joy. Finish off with an Affogato.
Best for a special occasion: 95 on Keerom
After all these years, celebrated chef and restaurateur Giorgio Nava’s first restaurant, 95 Keerom, still delivers on the goods. Indeed, the Milanese-inspired food has a well-earned reputation for its contemporary flair and honest ingredients without unnecessary fuss. But that is not to say that choosing any items off the menu is easy. A bit of everything then, is key. The steak tartare is rumoured to be the best in town, the carpaccio too, a speciality. The pasta won Giorgio the World Pasta Championship in 2013, so that too, is a must. He also gives meat the star treatment, so do not hesitate to order a dish from the ‘Le Carni’ section.
Do not skip dessert. The famed chocolate fondant is made with dark Zaini imported Italian chocolate, and its perfect chocolate crust and rich liquid centre will set the standard for every chocolate fondant you will have from that moment. Its white chocolate twin is a little stickier and sweeter, but gorgeous when scooped with a bit of the original.
Best hidden gem (and gluten-free options): Goloso
Established in 2010, Goloso has quietly become a local favourite for authentic Italian cuisine served in a welcoming, relaxing environment.
Specializing in hand made pasta and stone-baked pizza, they also offer a wide variety of starters, grills and delectable homemade desserts. We love the fall-off the bone chicken cacciatora, slow-cooked with celery, carrots, white wine, cannellini beans and tomatoes. The lasagne too is a thing of great beauty, the handmade pasta sheets layered with béchamel, beef Bolognese, mozzarella and Parmesan. The pizzas, made with zero flour are equally as excellent, with classic and gourmet toppings to choose from. Wonderfully, the gluten-intolerant amongst us are not left out of the carby action, as both the pastas and pizzas can be made with gluten-free flour. End it all with a scoop of gelato and a Bottega grappa.
Best for risotto: Signal at Cape Grace
There is a special art to making risotto. Slowly stirred to perfection, this North Italian classic is the ultimate comfort food.
While the basics do not change, the best part about it is its versatility. At Signal restaurant, we transform the delicious blank canvas into creamy, al dente goodness in two different ways. Try the butter curry starter, served with tamarind glazed quail, preserved lemon and cucumber, it is a taste sensation influenced by traditional Cape Malay cuisine. If you are having risotto for mains, you have the option of shellfish or porcini. The porcini risotto is served with roasted beetroot, pickled mushrooms and miso cream. It also happens to be vegan, so ideal for plant-based diners. The shellfish risotto is a seafood-lovers dream. Served with grilled prawns, mussels and crispy oysters, it’s reminiscent of paella, every forkful savoured with relish.
Best of the Best promotion at Cape Grace
Cape Town plays host to some of the world’s greatest sporting and cultural events. Celebrate these iconic moments in time with a stay at Cape Grace, receive a 15% discount off the nightly room rate and we will treat you to a complimentary 50-minute massage.
To complete the perfect experience, enjoy tapas on us at our iconic Bascule Bar poised on the edge of Cape Town’s most glamorous marina at the V&A Waterfront.
Ts and Cs apply. Visit the Cape Grace website for more.
Blog post by Tarah Darge