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Cape Town’s best-kept Italian secret, Osteria Tarantino – reviewed

Packed with traditional, comforting flavours, the food at Enrico Tarantino’s small Italian eatery, Osteria Tarantino, is refreshingly unpretentious and will transport you to a backstreet trattoria.

Fast facts

Cost: R115 average main meal
Parking: Park on one of the small roads in the area, or nab a bay in the Cape Quarter
Best for: Homely Italian food
Star ratings: Food: 5, Ambience: 4, Service: 5

Food

The menus, chalked onto blackboards, are explained to you in mouth-watering detail. Start things off with Tuscan cigars or the famed burrata el parma. The burrata is luxuriously creamy and arrives on a bed of rocket with sun-dried and fresh tomatoes, olives, and wafer-thin parma ham – it’s all so delicious, you’ll be fighting over the last bite. A side of soft bread acts as the perfect vessel.

The burrata el parma at Osteria Tarantino. Photo supplied.

For mains, there are hearty dishes like rich meatballs or creamy gnocchi gorgonzola, but it’s the fresh, homemade pasta we’re here for. The signature ‘4 Ps’ pasta comes with silky pappardelle noodles in a sauce of porcini mushrooms, pancetta, parmesan cheese and a rich tomato base made with veal mince. It’s simply sublime, and packs a punch of robust Italian flavours. Vegetarians are also taken care of, with the kitchen happily making changes to this dish by replacing the meat with pickled zucchini and olives. Alternatively, go for the pillowy, umami-rich spinach-and-ricotta ravioli. The simple-sounding dish is anything but: The combination of minced truffles and olive oil creates a magically creamy sauce that leaves you wanting to lick the pan.

On the desserts front, the menu might feature classic tiramisu or cassata, but it’s the cannoli that deserves a special mention. The freshly made tunnel pastries are stuffed with a milk tart-like ricotta filling, which is paired magnificently with a cup of Illy coffee. If you want something a little smaller, the ice cream-stuffed cornetti are moreish morsels. The bites are described to us as “the best part of a Cornetto” (the little chocolate-coated tip of the cone), and serve as a perfect end to the meal.

Drinks

The concise blackboard wine list features some good pasta-pairing options, like local Nativo White Blend or Morgenster Merlot. Italian varietals also make an appearance, with rustic Chianti and dry Prosecco. Grappa, limoncello and Amaretto are also available.

Service

The service here is friendly and faultless. The tiny team keeps things running smoothly in a warm and accommodating manner.

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Ambience

The minute space is cosy and comfortable with timber walls, blackboard menus and warm lighting. There’s also a small outside area, which is popular for those lazy lunches or early summer suppers.

And…

There’s a lovely central fireplace for chilly evenings.

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