Well-known food importer Rialto recently opened its three-storey restaurant complex on buzzing Bree Street. After the anticipated launch of the first-floor Italian bistro, Locanda, the Villa 47 team has now opened Stuzzico, a stylish tapas bar on the second level. Intrigued by the Italian- and Asian-inspired menu, Nikita Buxton heads for an after work bite of tapas.
Price: R55 on average for a tapas plate
Serves: Modern Mediterranean and Asian tapas
Best for: After-work drinks and nibbles, or a stylish Friday night with friends
Parking: Parking on Bree Street can be tricky; rather take a taxi
Star ratings: Food 4, service 5, ambience 5
The flavours on the menu are inspired by the Mediterranean and Asia. While this might sound odd, the two cuisines remain separate, with predominantly Italian dishes and only a few Asian options on offer. Tapas-style dishes are perfect for the bar environment, with each dish served in a timely fashion without overwhelming the table.
We decide to kick off the evening with the polenta chips. These moreish wedges are crunchy outside and soft inside, wrapped in salty P.D.O (protected designation of origin) parma ham and served with a rich, silky and warm gorgonzola sauce – an indulgent bite that goes well with a glass of vino.
For those wanting their carbo fix, spinach-and-ricotta ravioli are served in a tapas portion with a glossy cream sauce and P.D.O grana padano. Another Italian favourite are the arancini balls. These offer a satisfying crunch with their golden panko-crumb casing with a welcoming centre of stringy mozzarella. Small bites of light pizza dough (known as gnoccho frito) are flattened and fried for extra crunch, making great vessels for the assorted imported cheese or meat platter. The platter serves one and is a touch on the expensive side for the amount of cheese, but the creamy delights offered are luxurious almost enough to justify it.
The grilled prawn skewers with togarashi spice (a capsicum blend) and roasted garlic aioli presents an unusual bitterness, making it the least favourite dish of the night, although the prawns are still perfectly cooked and sweet.
Stuzzico’s menu does not offer a dessert option, but we were briefed on two available sweets to try in tiny tapas portions. The chocolate mousse was slightly bland and the balsamic strawberries and cream seemed like a bit of an after-thought. Perhaps a dessert or two from Locanda downstairs might be a more suitable sweet-ending for those looking for it?
A good wine list is on offer with some nice local brands as well as imported options (with a few available by the glass). The glamorous bar is also fully stocked with beers, spirits and cocktails.
On-the-ball and knowledgeable. Our waiter Simphiwe was on the money with his polenta chips recommendation.
Stuzzico is a moody space with old windows that overlook bustling Bree Street. Dark hues, dramatic lighting and a glass wine cellar make this a super-stylish spot for drinks.
The restaurant downstairs, Locanda, is a great relaxed bistro spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perhaps make your way down there for a post-drinks dinner if you’re after larger portions.
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