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South Africa’s best Italian restaurants: Where to eat in 2017

Whether you’re craving your favourite pasta in a rich sauce like mama makes it, crisp and cheesy woodfired pizza, delicate beef carpaccio, or fresh line-fish baked in a pizza oven, we’ve got you covered. Our list of the best trattorias, pizzerias and modern eateries in the country will definitely satisfy your need for soul-soothing Italian.

This list is our critics’ pick of the best Italian restaurants, as rated and reviewed for the 2017 Eat Out magazine.

Johannesburg

Amarcord Italian Food (Blairgowrie)
Northern Italian cuisine is known for its cured meats, excellent cheeses, balsamic vinegar and stuffed pasta, all of which you can find here. Crowds flock for the zucchini fritti, melanzane, ravioli with burnt sage butter and parmesan, and veal escalopes with porcini sauce. If you have room for dessert, try the home-made gelato.

Café del Sol Botanico (Bryanston) – 2016 winner of Best Italian Eatery in Gauteng
Classic Mediterranean flavours appear in many seafood dishes – the stuffed calamari is raved about – and the chicken livers and penne with spicy beef fillet come highly recommended. There’s also pizza, gnocchi, risotto and meat dishes.

Cafe del Sol's butternut gnocchi. Photo supplied.

Cafe del Sol’s butternut gnocchi. Photo supplied.

Café del Sol TRE (Parkhurst)
Choose from classics like carpaccio, gnocchi, risotto and pasta with interesting variations. The oxtail risotto with root vegetable shavings is perfection, as is the silky pappardelle with whisky, mushrooms and cream.

Café del Sol Classico (Randburg) – 2016 highly commended for Best Italian Eatery in Gauteng
This family-run restaurant is a real hidden gem. The chef favourites include tomato soup topped with gorgonzola and chives, battered prawns with lemony avocado, porcini chicken, gorgonzola fillet in a balsamic-and-port reduction, stuffed calamari, and the salmon-vodka gnocchi.

Col’Cacchio Pizzeria (Hyde Park)
While Col’Cacchio does serve other appealing Italian mains, its pizzas are the main event. Enjoy options with salad-filled centres for the health-conscious, as well as gluten-free bases. If you’re undecided, the half-half option is your best bet, with seven variations.

Two delicious pizzas from Col'Cacchio. Photo supplied.

Two delicious pizzas from Col’Cacchio. Photo supplied.

Da Graziella Restaurant and Pizzeria (Edenvale)
Old-fashioned, authentic, heartfelt Italian food is on offer here. For mains, the oven-baked seafood linguine comes highly recommended. There’s also a huge selection of meaty fare including veal, poultry and lamb.

Franco’s Pizzeria (Parkview)
Since 1987 Franco Forleo and his family have been drawing in the crowds with their great service and friendly atmosphere. Fantastic thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas with traditional toppings are a drawcard, but pastas are equally enticing.

Gemelli Ristorante (Bryanston)
This beautiful Italian restaurant is the brainchild of Allesandro Khojane, who grew up in Rome, Italy. The seasonal menu is honest and simple, with traditional Italian ingredients prepared in a modern way. Highlights might include the honeymoon risotto, topped with prawn tails, garlic, tomato and parsley cream, or any pasta dish. The dessert menu is also impressive.

Gemelli penne Allessandro. Photo by Rupesh Kassen.

Gemelli’s penne Allessandro. Photo by Rupesh Kassen.

La Cucina di Ciro (Parktown North)
This Jozi icon has stood the test of time. The menu changes four times a year and might include well-executed T-bone steak Fiorentina, legendary home-made fettuccine with seafood, or risotto with peas and pine nuts.

La Luna of Melville (Melville)
Pastas are always an event here, and the specials board is tempting, but try the fan favourites like salmon fillet with capers, olives, snap peas and sauce vierge, any prawn dish, and the delicious casoncelli filled with oxtail, bacon, sage and butter.

Mastrantonio (Illovo)
Highlights at this easy-going establishment include tender panzerotti stuffed with roasted butternut; hand-rolled gnocchi and Napoletano sauce; crispy squid heads; and porcini sautéed in butter and herbs. For meat lovers, the crumbed veal chops and Florentine steak are mouth-watering. End on the tiramisu or custard-filled profiteroles topped with chocolate sauce.

Moda’ Ristorante (Craighall Park)
Honest Italian fare is what you’ll get here. The antipasti is delicious and the crispy-based pizzas are prepared in a wood-fired oven and topped with traditional combinations. Finish off with classic tiramisu.

A pizza at Moda' Restaurant. Photo supplied.

A pizza at Moda’ Ristorante. Photo supplied.

Nonna Mia’s Kitchen (Norwood)
At Nonna Mia’s you’ll find satisfying starters of melanzane alla parmigiana or granchio (crab) in pomodoro. Pastas are seriously saucy and full of flavour and the cheesy beef lasagne, tasty veg lasagne and spaghetti ai frutti di mare are delicious.

Remo’s Maximilliano (Sunninghill)
This deli and bakery keeps fans happy from morning until night. For a more traditional approach, start with antipasti and then decide between pizza or pasta. Portions are big enough to share, so leave room for the fresh pastries.

Rosto (Linden)
This fairly new eatery has become known for wood-fired and roasted Italian street food with interesting twists. If you don’t order a whole, half or quarter free-range chicken, try the lasagne. Skip the tiramisu in favour of the panna cotta or semifreddo al torrone.

A feast at ROSTO in Linden. Photo supplied.

A feast at ROSTO in Linden. Photo supplied.

Tortellino D’oro (Oaklands)
For over 20 years Tortellini D’oro has served exquisite pastas and Bolognese fare from family recipes. After excellent antipasti and starter specials, move on to highlights like butternut, ricotta and almond ravioli in sage butter, luscious lasagne, or veal marsala. Home-made sorbet, gelato and patisserie make for heavenly desserts.

Pretoria

Alfie’s Pizzeria (Hazelwood)
Classic wood-fired pizzas are celebrated here. Choose between focaccia, pizze bianche, pizze rosse and calzone. The capricciosa is a fan favourite, topped with mozzarella, mushrooms, ham, artichokes, olives and a soft egg. It’s simple perfection. Finish with a perfect panna cotta or tiramisu.

The pizza oven at Alfie's Pizzeria. Photo: supplied.

The pizza oven at Alfie’s Pizzeria. Photo supplied.

Café Bree (Groenkloof)
Head here for the zivas filled with options like roast lamb with dijonnaise, rocket and caramelised onion, or opt for rich oxtail or veal piccata with mushrooms and cream. Pizzas and pastas also feature. Desserts include comfort food like decadent cakes, cupcakes and cheesecakes.

Caraffa Ristorante (Alphen Park)
The classic pastas here are freshly made. If you’re a gnocchi fan, try it with quattro formaggi or osso bucco. The rump, prepared in the pizza oven with olives, capers and mixed peppers and served with polenta, is a good choice. The pizzas are also great, with options like the quattro stagioni with anchovy, mushrooms and ham.

Fumo (Groenkloof)
The menu here begins with a comprehensive list of tapas and starters. Be sure to try the grilled sardines with pine nuts, raisins and vinegar dressing. Of course, there are also pastas, risottos, raviolis and pizzas.

La Fiamma (Faerie Glen)
Chef Jarrid Smith and mom Cinzia are a killer team. Try the rosemary-infused focaccia to get things started then move on to slow-roasted pork belly or a trusty pizza, and indulge in a sweet ending of panna cotta.

Piccola Italia (Monument Park)
Start with delicate carpaccio or Caprese salad, or try a homemade minestrone soup starter. Move onto the special of spaghetti with prawns, nuts and rosa tomatoes, or the lamb shank osso bucco. Calzones, pizzas and seafood also make an appearance.

The street scene at Piccola Italia. Photo supplied.

The street scene at Piccola Italia. Photo supplied.

Ritrovo Ristorante (Waterkloof Heights)
The menu here is extensive and could include fennel-and-orange salad, insalata di mare with perfectly cooked seafood, oven-roasted prawns, and gnocchi with a traditional ragu or a spaghetti alla Napoletana. The home-made ice creams are delicious.

Toni’s Fully Furnished Pizza Company (Rietondale)
Toni’s favourite pizzas still shine at this popular spot. Health-conscious patrons can also opt for banting bases for the 30+ pizza options. There are also a few salads, pastas and desserts, including the legendary pizza topped with toasted almonds, honey and cream.

The dessert pizza at Toni's Fully Furnished Pizza. Photo supplied.

The dessert pizza at Toni’s Fully Furnished Pizza. Photo supplied.

Villa San Giovanni Ristorante (Wonderboom National Airport)
The extensive menu offers delicious eats, a number of buffet options and set menus. Try Italian classics such as cannelloni ricotta; gnocchi quattro formaggi; the Napoleone pizza with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke, fresh basil and feta; saltimbocca; osso bucco; and tiramisu ice cream.

Woodstock Urban Pizzeria (Constantia Park)
There are familiar names here like regina and margherita, but local palates are also represented with pizzas like the Jo-Burger with potato and asparagus, and the Woodstock with biltong and avo. The bases are thin and crisp and the toppings are generous.

Durban

Al Firenze (La Lucia)
Typical Italian fare like pizza and pasta keep locals happy, but some real culinary gems make this a stand-out. The trifolati mushrooms are sensational, delicately sautéed in olive oil, garlic and parsley. Other highlights include baked artichokes with parmesan and garlic, and the chicken livers, smothered in Napoletana sauce with chilli and cream and soaked up with mozzarella-and-onion focaccia. The seafood platter is the kind you languish over all afternoon, with the sauce dropping down to your elbows.

The seafood platter at Al Firenze. Photo supplied.

The seafood platter at Al Firenze. Photo supplied.

Bel Punto (Umdloti)
Snack on complimentary garlic focaccia while perusing the extensive menu, which includes seafood, grills, salads and pasta infused with authentic southern Italian flavours by the Cantatore family. You can’t go wrong with a seafood platter, the gorgeous line fish of the day, and moreish risotto. Finish off with Italian kisses, panna cotta or baked cheesecake.

The Glenwood Restaurant (Glenwood)
Adam Robinson of The Glenwood Bakery pays homage once more to flour and water, but here it’s all about fresh, hand-made and perfectly prepared pasta. Offerings are mostly vegetarian, but your palate won’t miss the protein once you taste the thin sheets of pasta and sublime, glossy sauces. On Sundays there are great roasts.

The tomato and basil pasta at The Glenwood Restaurant. Photo by Nikita Buxton.

The tomato and basil pasta at The Glenwood Restaurant. Photo by Nikita Buxton.

La Casa Nostra (Umdloti)
Start off the Italian way with ricotta-stuffed olives and crispy calamari. With the wood-fired oven blazing, it’s hard to resist a pizza or the local favourite of oven-baked peri-peri chicken.

A pizza at La Casa Nostra. Photo supplied.

A pizza at La Casa Nostra. Photo supplied.

Lupa Osteria (Durban North)
The focus here is on authentic Italian dishes, fresh pasta and pizza. Share starters like pretzel-dusted calamari, or crumbed and fried artichoke. Carnivores can choose from wood-roasted chicken or lamb shank, veal, or a balsamic avo fillet stack with white-wine risotto. The pizzas are consistently good.

A tomato pasta at Lupa Osteria. Photo supplied.

A tomato pasta at Lupa Osteria. Photo supplied.

Marco Paulo (Mount Edgecombe)
The pizzas here are enticing as are the signature pasta dishes like spaghetti gamberi with prawns, olive oil, chilli, garlic, lemon zest and rocket; wild mushroom fettuccini; and creamy risotto with rosemary, bacon, baby peas and slow-roasted tomatoes. If space still allows, desserts are freshly prepared and available on request.

Old Town Italy (Umhlanga)
This is an eclectic combo of restaurant, deli and market. Innovative Italian-style breakfasts include homemade sausage with poached eggs and marmalade, waffles and filled croissants. Lunch offers a mouth-watering array of antipasti and pastas. Order buffet-style from the deli or à la carte items like succulent lemon chicken, rib eye or fritto misto.

The risotto at Old Town Italy . Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The risotto at Old Town Italy . Photo supplied.

Remo’s Villaggio (Umhlanga Rocks)
This branch of Remo’s is almost always busy, giving locals and tourists a taste of authentic Italy. Pop in for lunch and dinner to enjoy a range of pizzas, pastas, seafood salads, burgers and meat dishes. Highlights include red wine-braised lamb with rigatoni pasta; and gnocchi with meatballs and Mamma’s sauce. Finish off with delicious coffee-infused crème brûlée.

Cape Town

95 Keerom (Gardens)
Giorgio Nava has attracted aficionados for many years. The beef tartare is one of the best in town, hand-cut and anointed with SA olive oil. Also fabulous are the ravioli, butternut or spinach, topped with sage butter and parmesan, and gorgonzola gnocchi. Much of the meat is from Giorgio’s farms. Tiramisu and chocolate fondant make great endings.

The intimate setting at 95 Keerom. Photo supplied.

The intimate setting at 95 Keerom. Photo supplied.

A Tavola (Claremont)
Work your way from the antipasti through to the primi with options like hand-made linguine pescatore. Other mains include veal saltimbocca alla Romana or tagliolini ai funghi e tartufo with wild mushrooms, rocket and truffle oil.

Bocca (City Bowl)
The solid menu hasn’t changed much since opening, attracting a steady stream of diners here for business or pleasure. Classic Neapolitan-style pizzas fall in two categories: with or without a tomato base. Bocca is also known for tapas like zucchini fries with garlic aioli and the ever-popular crispy pork ribs.

A pizza at Bocca in Bree Street. Photo supplied.

A pizza at Bocca in Bree Street. Photo supplied.

Burrata (Woodstock)
Consistency and contemporary Italian cuisine are the benchmarks here. Start with one of the best antipasti and charcuterie selections in town, then move onto fantastic pizzas, pastas or a signature risotto. Try leave space for the dolce pizza.

The interior at Burrata. Photo by Claire Gunn.

The interior at Burrata. Photo by Claire Gunn.

Col’Cacchio Pizzeria (Foreshore)
This family-friendly eatery is best known for pizzas, but it has so much more to offer. Salads are abundant and the meaty pastas are a highlight. Banting fans will be delighted with a number of carb-free offerings. Tiramisu and panna cotta end off the meal.

The Cousins (City Bowl)
Inspired by their nonna, who taught them to cook, these three Italian cousins from the Romagna province specialise in delicious pasta with authentic ingredients. The signature pasta, finished in an entire wheel of parmesan, is a definite highlight.

Pasta at The Cousins

The signature pasta and parmesan at The Cousins. Photo supplied.

Cucina Labia (Muizenberg)
Reliable classics and innovative dishes are what you’ll find here. Mains include salsa verde chicken roulade with deconstructed ratatouille, parmesan and polenta; deboned short rib with a café-au-lait sauce and cauliflower purée; and nero pasta sheets with confit butternut, smoked feta, tomato and macadamia.

Il Leone Mastrantonio (Green Point)
You’ll get all the classics at this always-full eatery. It’s renowned for carpaccio di pesce and the linguine Portofino with prawns, cherry tomatoes and white-wine sauce. There’s short and long, open and closed pasta with all the traditional fillings. Tiramisu ends the meal on a high.

Locanda at Villa 47 (City Bowl) – 2016 highly commended Best Italian Eatery in Western Cape
The lunch menu at this Bree Street spot offers baguettes, wraps and platters loaded with imported ingredients like mortadella, Italian gorgonzola and Milanese salami. For dinner, opt for beef or octopus carpaccio, seared tuna, pastas and risotto. The saltimbocca – veal with prosciutto crudo, sage, white wine and polenta – is rich and tasty.

A pasta dish at Locanda at Villa 47. Photo supplied.

A pasta dish at Locanda at Villa 47. Photo supplied.

Magica Roma (Pinelands)
A Cape Town institution famed for old-school Italian fare, this is the spot for something really retro. If the usual pizza and pasta suspects don’t pique your fancy, try the panzerotti veal with ricotta, parmesan and sage. End on classic tiramisu.

A calamari dish at Magica Roma. Photo supplied.

A calamari dish at Magica Roma. Photo supplied.

Massimo’s (Hout Bay)
Owners Massimo and Tracy offer warm hospitality and generous portions at reasonable prices at this local landmark. Share a selection of cold and hot spuntini (tapas) to start. Regulars can’t resist the 30+ thin-crust pizzas and the extensive pasta menu with sauces from arrabbiata to carbonara and puttanesca. There’s also a special range of pizzas whose proceeds go towards certain local charities.

A pizza at Massimo's in Hout Bay. Photo supplied.

A pizza at Massimo’s in Hout Bay. Photo supplied.

Nonna Lina (Gardens)
The menu at this local favourite offers everything one would except from an Italian establishment and more, from traditional thin-based margheritas to Sardinian specialities like pane guttiau – a snack of thin bread, warmed in extra-virgin olive oil and salt.

Ristorante Posticino (Sea Point)
Posticino is a staple on the Cape Town pizza-and-pasta firmament, and a favourite with locals and tourists alike. Mix it up at your table with a selection of pizzas and pastas with myriad toppings and sauces.

True Italic (City Bowl) – 2016 winner of Best Italian Eatery in Western Cape
Unpretentious and authentic Italian food is what you’ll get here. Enjoy homemade bread and olive oil to start before moving on to one of the hearty pastas or gnocchi with Sicilian rib sauce.

The entrance at True Italic

The entrance at True Italic. Photo supplied.

Winelands and beyond

95 @ Morgenster (Somerset West)
Restaurateur Giorgio Nava and Giulio Bertrand, the owner of Morgenster, are a match made in culinary heaven. Start with a salad of seared beef or fried squid, then move on to rich gorgonzola gnocchi, spinach and ricotta ravioli, or excellent beef fillet with olive oil, rosemary and garlic.

inside at 95 @ Morgenster

The interior at 95@Morgenster. Photo supplied.

La Trattoria (Stanford)
This spot is a real enclave of authentic Italian food, right in the heart of Stanford. Gnocchi and pasta are made lovingly on site and cooked to perfection. The different kinds of lasagne are so popular that they frequently sell out. Finish the meal with a scoop of gelato in a choc-chip bowl.

Mama Cucina Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant (Riebeek-Kasteel)
Reliable fare continues to keep locals and tourists happy. Go for a popular wood-fired pizza, with delicious toppings like bacon, goat’s cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, or a chalkboard special of prawn-and-saffron risotto, or artichoke ravioli with creamy basil sauce. Portions are generous, with the focus on warm hospitality.

The Sofia Loren pizza at Mama Cucina. Photo supplied.

The Sofia Loren pizza at Mama Cucina. Photo by Nikita Buxton.

Pane e Vino Food & Wine Bar (Stellenbosch)
This homely Italian bistro is a great place to escape bustling Stellenbosch for a quiet lunch, glass of wine or coffee. The food is authentically Italian, so you can expect a good range of dishes from the antipasti, primi and secondi menu. Daily specials such as meltingly delicious osso bucco and stuffed veal are highly recommended.

Terra Mare (Paarl)
The menu here blends local flavours with a distinctly European approach. Look out for dishes such as wild mushroom risotto with mascarpone and baby chicken with spicy potatoes. Plating is elegant but without unnecessary flourishes. The cleverly named ‘Non merci’ platter offers a selection of bite-sized desserts.

Trattoria da Vinci (Sedgefield)
Steve and Leah Balletta have been cooking traditional Italian food for over two decades. The highly recommended lamb shank and pork with crackling are slow-roasted in the pizza oven until tender. Another highlight is the marinara sauce, a savoury melange of tomatoes and herbs, served over home-made pastas or lightly brushed on the best pizzas on the Garden Route. Daily desserts might include Sicilian ricotta cake.

Ristorante Enrico (Plettenberg Bay)
While the menu is Italian, the strong point is the fish, often freshly caught from Enrico’s own boat. Simple preparations are best, when the seafood is lightly grilled and dressed in garlic, parsley and a splash of wine. Deep-fried calamari fritti makes a good starter to share; also good is the lemony insalata di mare with prawns, mussels, fresh fish and calamari. For an authentic ending, try ricotta cake or homemade gelato.

Seafood pasta at Ristorante Enrico. Photo supplied.

Seafood pasta at Ristorante Enrico. Photo supplied.

By no means a complete list of all Italian restaurants, this list comprises the top restaurants in rated and reviewed for the 2017 Eat Out magazine, which is on sale now.

parmigiano-reggianoHungry for Italian food at home? Top your favourite dish with Parmigiano Reggiano 24-months matured, which is available at Woolworths.  Click here for recipes using Parmigiano Reggiano.

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