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South Africa’s Best Italian restaurants: Where to eat in 2016

Italian cuisine is far more varied and complex than plain pizzas and pastas. Yes, it can take a simple form, like spaghetti tossed with black pepper, parmesan and olive oil, neatly folded parcels of ravioli, and little clouds of gnocchi, but great cooks can also transport the diner with generous layered flavours. Whether you’re craving your favourite pasta in a rich sauce like mama makes it, delicate beef carpaccio, or fresh line fish baked in a pizza oven, our list of the best trattorias, pizzerias and modern eateries in the country will satisfy your need for soul-warming Italian. Bellissima!

A tomato pasta at Lupa Osteria. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

A tomato pasta at Lupa Osteria. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

This list was compiled of all the Italian restaurants that appeared in the 2016 Eat Out magazine. Our panel of critics rated and reviewed the restaurants nominated by you to make up the Eat Out 500, a power list of the country’s top restaurants that were featured in the magazine. Want your favourite to stand a chance of inclusion next year? Nominate them by rating and writing a review now.

 

Johannesburg

Amarcord Osteria Italiana (Randburg)

The mouthwatering menu at this classic spot focuses on northern Italian cuisine made with quality ingredients. Dishes include white anchovy fillets served with mixed pickles, grilled artichokes, and hearty charcuterie. Mains include seafood, veal, tender chicken and red meat, such as the popular grilled beef filled with mash, rocket and parmesan. Pastas are made on site and melt in the mouth. Try the raviolini with butter and sage.

Café del Sol (Olivedale)

This easygoing eatery serves up comfort food. Menu items are inspired by classic Italian roots and include specials such tender ravioli stuffed with butternut and served with crispy sage and burnt butter; hand-rolled gnocchi with gorgonzola and walnuts; and crispy squid heads with aioli. Risottos are perfectly prepared and the desserts are a real treat, with cakes made in-house.

A caprese salad at Café del Sol.

A caprese salad at Café del Sol. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Café del Sol Botanico (Bryanston)

A bright and airy space. Try a starter of salt-and-pepper squid with lime aioli or head right for the pizzas with fresh toppings. Hearty and tasty mains include beef T-bone tagliata with porcini and fresh black truffle butter, black sesame-crusted salmon with avo mash, and butternut gnocchi with sage and fresh black truffle sauce. For after-dinner drinks, pop in to the Landmark bar next door.

Woodfired pizza at Café del Sol Botanico.

Woodfired pizza at Café del Sol Botanico. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Casalinga Ristorante (Muldersdrift)

The menu at this elegant restaurant highlights seasonal veggies and organically grown herbs. Standout dishes include the crespolini al salmone (pancakes with fresh Norwegian salmon and mozzarella), or the slow-roasted lamb shanks, cooked in a vegetable, mint and red wine reduction. The desserts are great, with traditional options like tiramisu.

Cornuti Stella e Luna (Parkhurst)

The pizzas are the favourite at this popular spot; try the pepperoni one with spring onions and peppadew, or the La Collina with gorgonzola, avo and bacon. Other offerings include starters of finger snacks served with the drinks at the Venetian bar, while the grilled calamari with chorizo, fillet béarnaise, and Moroccan meatballs are great main options.

Da Graziella Pizzeria and Trattoria (Edenvale)

This beautiful, cosy Italian restaurant belongs to a Sicilian brother-and-sister team. For starters, try their baked aubergine in fresh tomato-and-basil sauce, topped with mozzarella, or the supplì (rice balls stuffed with ground beef and mozzarella). Their risotto con gamberi – rice and prawns cooked in wine and tomato – is delicate and flavoursome. If you’re a pasta lover, try the cannelloni stuffed with chicken, porcini mushroom and pine nuts. For dessert, go for the Sicilian cannolo, a tube-shaped pastry filled with ricotta, nuts and fruit.

Franco’s Pizzeria and Trattoria (Parkview)

Everything is simply done at this down-to-earth spot. Regulars enjoy wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas with traditional toppings, pastas, risottos, and some classic dishes. The spatch-cock chicken with a chilli dressing is a winner, and the mussels marinara fettucine is delicious. For dessert, order the comforting tiramisu.

Antipasti at Franco’s Pizzeria and Trattoria.

Antipasti at Franco’s Pizzeria and Trattoria. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Gema Trattoria and Pizzeria (South Kensington)

This is one of Joburg’s best-kept secrets. The wholesome food is prepared with care and generosity and includes plenty traditional favourites like pizzas and pastas. Specials include marinated artichokes with lemon and parsley; porcini mushroom and polenta fingers in a gorgonzola sauce; spaghetti scampi; lamb stew; and a sweet ending of limoncello tiramisu.

Il Giardino Degli Ulivi (Milpark)

This attractive pizza station turns out thin, crispy-base pizzas with classic toppings as well as meaty options like leg of lamb. The antipasto platter is a hit, with a combination of coppa, salami, prosciutto, tomatoes, artichokes and olives. For dessert, expect comforting options like malva pudding and tiramisu.

La Cucina di Ciro (Parktown North)

Chef Ciro turns out fragrant, moreish dishes at this elegant homestead. Enjoy dishes like fresh fish with a babaganoush crust and juniper berry butter; chargrilled lamb loin cutlets with mustard seeds and mint jelly, and end on millefeuille with chocolate mousse and poached pears or orange panna cotta with a Campari granita.

A calamari salad at La Luna.

A calamari salad at La Luna. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

La Luna (Melville)

Chef Klaus Beckmann and Lindy Pretorius let their personalities show in the cooking at this welcoming restaurant. The seafood is fresh and delightful – especially the prawns and calamari. Try the homemade pasta dishes with made-from-scratch sauces and indulge in simple, classic sweets to round off the meal.

Mastrantonio (Illovo)

This smart yet comfortable restaurant serves hearty dishes like the melanzane alla parmigiana and grilled-to-perfection bistecca alla Fiorentina. Pasta lovers can expect dishes like the tomato-and-vodka penne, or the zucchini linguine in a simple tomato sauce. Desserts include profiteroles, panna cotta and tiramisu.

Pasta at Mastrantonio.

Pasta at Mastrantonio. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Nonna Mia’s (Norwood)

This modern Italian spot has become a gem in the Norwood area. The extensive menu offers antipasti, pasta, grills and grande pizzas with 24 slices. The homemade gnocchi dish is what they’re known for: soft pillows, tossed in a moreish Pomodoro sauce. Baked pastas are available with options like the alfredo forno and four-cheese alforno. For something sweet, try the Nutella puffs or Italian cakes and pastries.

The food counter at Nonna Mia's.

The food counter at Nonna Mia’s. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Pronto Italian Restaurant (Craighall Park)

This iconic restaurant and food store has won awards for food and service. For breakfast, try the ricotta griddlecakes with bacon and maple syrup, or the Mediterranean scrambled eggs with pancetta and tomatoes. Lunch and dinner menus include arancini or wholesome soups to start and polenta with meatballs, or pizzas and pastas for mains.

Minestrone at Pronto Italian Restaurant.

Minestrone at Pronto Italian Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Remo’s Maximilliano (Sunninghill)

Expect delicious home-style Italian food like halloumi with basil mayo, handmade pizzas, and excellent pastas. Their mac ’n cheese made with bacon is a heavenly. For dessert, try black pepper ice cream.

The interior at Remo's Maximilliano.

The interior at Remo’s Maximilliano. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

That’s Amore (Craighall Park)

Everything is made from scratch here. The gnocchi is phenomenal, as are the pasta dishes – especially the seafood pasta. Portion sizes may appear smaller but each dish is incredibly filling. An all-Italian wine list adds to the authentic experience.

Inside the deli at Tortellino D’oro.

Inside the deli at Tortellino D’oro. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Tortellino D’oro (Oaklands)

Diners are welcomed with prosecco, zucchini frites and olive tapenade with homemade bread. There’s a generous offering of dishes to choose from: fresh asparagus with lemon butter; saffron risotto; parma ham tortellini with a creamy sauce; and cannoli Siciliani. If you’re looking for a night in, head to their deli for some take-home treats.

Pretoria

Alfie’s Italian Café (Hazelwood)

A firm favourite on the Pretoria foodie scene. Their food is prepared simply and with great care – and there’s not a pizza in sight. The lighter-than-air onion flan with its sweet flavour and lovely texture will leave you wanting more, while a stunning pasta, grilled lamb chops, or homemade gnocchi make for delicious mains. End off with a decadent panna cotta with tart strawberry sauce.

Alfie's foccacia.

Alfies foccacia. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Café Bree (Groenkloof)

This lovely spot offers a menu rooted in classic Italian comforts. Breakfasts include a gourmet omelette with salmon, cream and capers, and lunch and dinner offers dishes such as the oxtail with a tomato-based sauce; oven-baked lumaconi with mince and spinach; and a traditional lasagne. There are also a few pizzas to choose from.

Caraffa (Alphen Park)

If you’re after a traditional trattoria, this vibrant spot has it all. Its strength includes generous cuts of free-range meat done in a wood-fired oven, fresh pasta like a hearty lasagne, and a great selection of seafood.

Delicious pavlova at Caraffa.

Delicious pavlova at Caraffa. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Fumo Restaurant (Groenkloof)

Chef-owner Claudio Uccello treats the best ingredients in a simple manner. Highlights include nettle risotto and perfect ravioli. The à la carte menu lists a number of starters from the sea, and mains include the likes of black-ink pasta with clams and broccoli, and fish stew with Napoletana sauce. Finish with limoncello panna cotta or the tiramisu tower.

La Fiamma (Faerie Glen)

With mom Cinzia in front-of-house and son Jarrid in the kitchen, this team is determined to be the neighbourhood restaurant of choice. Recommended are the starter of involtini melanzane with salted aubergines wrapped around ricotta and mozzarella, coated in Napoletana sauce and baked with parmesan, and the main of puttanesca pasta with intense olive, capers and anchovy flavours. For something meatier, try the classic saltimbocca alla Romano.

Piccola Italia (Monument Park)

You can’t go wrong with the large selection of pastas and pizzas made in an authentic oven. The menu also includes focaccia, Italian salads, soups and tramezzini, but recommended are the Napoletana lamb puttanesca, the rabbit stew (prepared the traditional Italian way), and a deconstructed panna cotta.

A Ritrovo classic.

A Ritrovo classic. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Ritrovo Ristorante (Waterkloof Heights)

This award-winning spot is famous for good food, great wine and family values. The authentic, extensive menu boasts dishes such as beef done to perfection, prawns alla Giovanni, and thin-based southern Italian pizzas.

A pizza at Toni’s Fully Furnished Pizza Company .

A pizza at Toni’s Fully Furnished Pizza Company . Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Toni’s Fully Furnished Pizza Company (Rietondale)

They have good few pastas and a few other items on the menu, but what makes this spot popular is the famous pizzas. They’ve tweaked the toppings and expanded with a few more adventurous combos. The most popular option is the Pizza Pesto with its tomato base, mozzarella, peppadew-and-basil pesto, goat’s cheese, walnuts and avo. Also worth a mention is the Insalata with garlic, chilli, avo or artichokes, rocket, grana padano and pine nuts.

Lasagne at Villa San Giovanni Ristorante.

Lasagne at Villa San Giovanni Ristorante. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Villa San Giovanni Ristorante (Wonderboom National Airport)

A perfect spot for classic Italian fare with a contemporary twist. Begin with gorgonzola focaccia, and follow it up with chicken livers with garlic, chilli and wine. Pastas are homemade and a good choice for carb lovers.

Bloemfontein

Avanti Italian Restaurant (Bloemfontein)

Look forward to traditional Italian fare at this family-friendly restaurant. Start with the antipasti and work your way through the hearty options. The Italian spring rolls are filled with mozzarella and parma ham – delicious. One of the best seafood dishes in town is the mussel pot, served with a basil-cream sauce and crusty bread. Try the fillet sautéed in a marsala and wild mushroom sauce. Leave from for dessert with options like the baked cheesecake or Amarula crème brûlée.

A dish at Avanti Italian Restaurant.

A dish at Avanti Italian Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Bella Casa (Bloemfontein)

The food at this homely and relaxed restaurant is hearty and tasty. Try the succulent Black Beast fillet with lemon butter and black pepper, or go straight for the pizzas with options like the famous Kitchen Sink topped with spinach, bacon, feta, olives and peppadews. For dessert, the pears in red wine are absolutely delicious (available in winter); else try the watermelon-and-granadilla sorbet.

Outside at Bella Casa.

Outside at Bella Casa. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Kerdoni’s Pizza & Pasta (Bloemfontein)

This trattoria gets creative with pizza toppings like chorizo sausage, caramelised onion, blue cheese and garlic. Or try one with a chutney base that’s topped with chicken, feta and roasted butternut. The pastas – especially the beef lasagne – are also worth a mention. Chocolate lovers can end of with a decadent dark chocolate mousse with ice cream.

Durban

Al Firenze (La Lucia)

Locals flock to this neighbourhood gem for easy-eating Italian and a good wine list. Sample the trifolati (an enormous plate of wild boletus mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, garlic and parsley), or the rosette pasta with Italian ham and cheese wrapped in spinach-and-egg pasta, and baked in cheesy sauce. The wood-fired oven churns out top-notch pizzas with a range of toppings. This makes a perfect spot for a quick takeaway pizza during the week.

An Al-Firenze pizza.

An Al-Firenze pizza. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Lupa Osteria (Durban North)

Chef Chris Black has made a name for his Italian food and the kitchen executes his dishes brilliantly. Pretzel-dusted calamari and carpaccio are great starter options. For mains, try one of the pizzas made with imported flour and cooked in the wood-fired oven. Pasta is homemade; try the trademark salsicce with Italian fennel sausages, bacon, mushrooms, chianti and cream. For a decadent ending, try the homemade tiramisu, or salted popcorn sundae.

Inside at Old Town Italy.

Inside at Old Town Italy. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Old Town Italy (Umhlanga Rocks)

Renzo Scribante, the man behind Remo’s chain, has created a Durban gourmet landmark in this Italian deli and restaurant. Start off with an antipasti platter or delve right into pasta options like the pappardelle Bolognese, lasagne and tagliatelle with creamy mushroom sauce and truffle oil. Other lunchtime offerings move from deep-fried baby calamari with chilli-tomato sauce to burgers on homemade buns. For dessert, wander over to the gelato station.

A waiter carrying two pizzas at Remo's Fratelli Villaggio.

A waiter carrying two pizzas at Remo’s Fratelli Villaggio. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Remo’s Fratelli Villaggio (Umhlanga Rocks)

Fresh breads form the backbone of the creative breakfast menu, while lunch and dinner include favourites like Norwegian salmon fishcakes with wilted spinach and braised lentils; magnificent crumbed artichokes with homemade basil-mayo dressing; melt-in-your-mouth salmon with a lemon butter and broccoli: light gnocchi with meatballs; and crisp, thin-based pizzas. End your meal with decadent poached pears with figs (when in season) and mascarpone or some gelato.

KwaZulu-Natal North Coast

Bel Punto (Umdloti)

The menu leans heavily towards seafood, highlights of which are succulent mussels in a white-wine sauce; rich and salty crab soup; and delicious marinara pasta with plenty of clams, prawns, mussels and calamari. For something a little different, try the calamari stuffed with prawns, red pepper and spinach, smothered in Napoletana sauce and mozzarella, and baked in a wood-fired oven. Finish it off with their homemade tiramisu or espresso crème brûlée.

Bel Punto prawns.

A prawns dish at Bel Punto. Photo courtesy of the restaurant

La Casa Nostra (Umdloti)

Look forward to a mix of crowd-pleasing fare like pastas, pizzas, risottos and calzones. Start with calamari tubes stuffed with roasted red pepper, spinach and Dijon prawns, or the lasagne, if you like it bubbling with lots of cheese. The complimentary focaccia is excellent: light and flaky with just the right amount of crispness.

KwaZulu-Natal South Coast

Casa Toscana Ristorante (Trafalgar)

The menu at this family-owned gem boasts carbonara in a glossy mix of egg yolk, pancetta and pecorino, while a mushroom flan, cheesy arancini, and beef carpaccio all make for excellent choices. A home-baked apple tart or their affogatos are a delightful way to end the meal.

Trattoria Casa Mia (Port Shepstone)

Chef-patron Alfonso is from Naples, a region known for this fresh ingredients and cheeses, and that is reflected in the dishes at this welcoming restaurant. The beef carpaccio is top quality, complete with generous shavings of parmesan and sweet balsamic. For mains, try the prawn pasta with a chilli kick, or the fettucini with a creamy porcini sauce, finished off with truffle oil. The vanilla panna cotta splashed with granadilla coulis is sensational.

Trattoria La Terrazza (Southbroom)

Find a seat on the blissful terrace and enjoy a starter of deep-fried zucchini sticks with a cooling basil mayo. For mains, try the spaghetti and meatballs with their intense tomato sauce and a generous sprinkling of parmesan. For dessert, go straight for the almond pavlova with red berry coulis and lemongrass syrup.

KwaZulu-Natal Midlands

La Lampara (Balgowan)

This rustic, Tuscan-style restaurant ticks all the boxes, starting with the crispy focaccia and homemade tapenade that arrives as you take your seat. The chalkboard menu changes weekly, but might include the likes of fresh asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, topped with parmesan and served with a light butter sauce, or artichokes roasted with garlic. For mains, you can expect the likes of risotto ai funghi, gnocchi formaggi or spaghetti gamberi. The authentically made crispy pizzas are a popular choice, too. End off with a chocolate fondant, gateau Italiano or raspberry cheesecake.

Chocolate fondant at La Lampara.

Chocolate fondant at La Lampara. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

East London

Grazia Fine Food and Wine (East London)

This easy-going eatery has something for everyone. The Italian specialties include pizzas and fresh pasta, such as the ravioli filled with meat and grated parmesan and served with a choice of sauce, or the layered gnocchi with creamy tomato sauce that’s baked in the oven.

A tasty pizza at Sanook.

A tasty pizza at Sanook. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Sanook Eatery (East London)

Look no further than the thin-based pizzas like the Steven Segal, with spinach, mushroom, red onion, blue cheese, seared fillet and pecorino. They also make great hearty pastas like the Maputo with chorizo, squid, chilli, and garlic, or you could wolf down The Three Little Pigs with bacon, pulled pork and crackling. Late in the afternoons you’ll find a young crowd here, laughing and grazing on tapas boards of crusty bread, cheeses and cold meats.

Cape Town

95 Keerom (Gardens)

Elegant simplicity is the name of the game at this romantic restaurant. The menu has remained the same for years; regulars are loyal to the well-loved carpaccio, seared line fish, and the cavatellli with broccoli cream, anchovies and oregano flowers. The sliced prime rib with garlic and olive oil is a great choice, as are the ossobuco and the veal cutlet with butter and sage. A feather-light, dreamy tiramisu will end the meal on a high note.

A pasta dish at 95 Keerom.

A pasta dish at 95 Keerom. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

A Tavola (Claremont)

Your belly will be fully satisfied at this southern suburbs spot. Start off with melanzane alla parmigiana, which is gloriously cheesy; a light zuppa ai frutti di mare; or grilled veal scallops with glossy mushroom sauce and fresh pasta. The rabbit braised with salsiccia, fresh herbs and tomato is boldly flavoured. For dessert, try the baked chocolate tart with hazelnut gelato.

A pasta at A Tavola.

A pasta at A Tavola. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Basilico (Tokai)

Look forward to a range of pastas and specialities like grilled Karan beef rump with brandy-pepper sauce and slow-roasted lamb shank with creamy mash. Crispy, thin-based pizzas have toppings like bacon, basil pesto, brie and cherry tomatoes, and chorizo, baby calamari and peppadews. The spaghetti and prawns in a tomato-chilli sauce wins dish of the day.

A delicious pizza at Basilico.

A delicious pizza at Basilico. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Bocca Restaurant (City Bowl)

As with its bigger sister, Burrata, the Neapolitan-style pizzas are a highlight here: the thin, chewy crusts have a slight char from the striking 450-degree. Choose between bianco or rosso pizzas, with both classic and adventurous toppings. The simple margherita is reliably good, while the Lady Zaza will dazzle with kimchi and ginger pork sausage. The menu also offers small plates for sharing, making it a great place for a quick bite during your lunch hour.

Orrechietti with peas crispy pancetta ricotta and mint oil at Bocca Restaurant.

Orrechietti with peas crispy pancetta ricotta and mint oil at Bocca Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Burrata (Woodstock)

The delightfully brief menu of our former Best Italian winner is mostly dedicated to pizzas, which are baked in 90 seconds in the wood-fired oven. While these are golden, chewy and delicious, don’t miss out on the starter of burrata with figs and porcini dust, or mains of orecchiette with basil, lemon, and peas, or rigatoni with short-rib ragu. End with a white chocolate custard or panna cotta.

A cheese pizza at Burrata.

A cheese pizza at Burrata. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Col’Cacchio (Foreshore)

This popular collection of restaurants sports a rich variety of pizza toppings, from classics to options like the La Zizou of stewed lamb, balsamic cherry tomatoes, and basil pesto mayo. Their impressive range of salads ranges from traditional options to the inventive Sorriso made with quinoa, marrow, mint and roasted butternut.

Cheese and tomato pizzas at Col'Cacchio.

Cheese and tomato pizzas at Col’Cacchio. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

La Frasca (Gardens)

The menu at this tiny hole in the wall comprises mainly of pizzas and pastas, with a few other mains like calamari salad, pork belly and line fish. Handmade ribbons of pappardelle are served with tasty ingredients like slow-cooked lamb neck, aubergine with ricotta, and beef brasato with parmigiano and herbs. Authentic pizzas are crisp and topped with a good tomato sauce with fresh ingredients.

An Italian dish with figs at La Frasca.

An Italian dish with figs at La Frasca. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Il Leone Mastrantonio (Green Point)

This is Italian food the way it’s meant to be – simple, fresh and tasty. Those in the know will go for the carpaccio di pesca, especially when tuna is available. Other antipasti include bruschetta, melanzane alla parmigiana, and moreish mussels with white wine, garlic and tomatoes. Try the penne gamberetti of baby prawns in a creamy tomato sauce with garlic and chilli.

Seafood pasta at Il Leone Mastrontonio.

Seafood pasta at Il Leone Mastrontonio. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Massimo’s (Hout Bay)

The antipasti at this local favourite will have you weak at the knees, including everything from seared beef carpaccio to fried mozzarella or ricotta gnudi. Pizza is what they’re known for and theirs are crispy and bubbling. The Pancetta is a classic choice, or you could opt for the Afrikana pizza topped with boerewors and caramelised onions. Reliable desserts include sticky toffee pudding (in winter) and Italian kisses. Also recommended is the limoncello bomb, a semifrozen dessert made with lemon curd, ice cream, limoncello, sponge and meringue.

A salad at Massimo's.

A salad at Massimo’s. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Meloncino (V&A Waterfront)

A compact menu features pizzas, pastas, meat, fish and sweets. The food is fresh and you can tell that the chef takes his time with every dish. The selection of thin-based pizzas is great for sharing at the table. For mains try the memorable chicken paillard stuffed with asparagus, smoked scamorza cheese and prosciutto, cooked in a creamy brandy sauce. The simple grilled calamari is a great as a lighter option.

Seafood pasta at Meloncino.

Seafood pasta at Meloncino. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Nonna Lina (Gardens)

Wood-fired pizzas arrive piping hot and bubbling. Toppings are fairly authentic, with the occasional options for South African palates. The butternut and sage panzerotti are moreish, especially with quattro formaggio sauce. End off with honey-soaked pastries filled with mozzarella, figs and nuts.

Posticino (Sea Point)

The bulk of the menu is given over to pastas and popular pizzas that are thin and crispy. If you’re having pasta, you choose the noodle and choice of sauce. The pizzas come with a multitude of toppings, ranging from capers to spinach, feta and sundried tomatoes.

a delicious looking dish at Volare Ristorante at Peddlars & Co.

a delicious looking dish at Volare Ristorante at Peddlars & Co. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Volare Ristorante at Peddlars & Co. (Constantia)

A neat menu at this elegant eatery offers a handful of options under antipasti, primi, secondi and dolce. Grilled baby squid, beef carpaccio with rosa tomatoes, and baked cauliflower with fontina cheese are great starter options. For mains, the risotto ai funghi is delicious – or order the sustainable fish or lamb neck. Finish with semi freddo or tiramisu.

Winelands and beyond

BICCCS (Franschhoek)

Nestled in Franschhoek between picturesque mountains and rolling hills, this is a perfect little getaway. Enjoy cheesy paninis and pizzas made from 00 flour and imported tomatoes and fresh toppings.

Italian ice cream at BICCCS.

Italian ice cream at BICCCS. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Fabio’s Ristorante (Hermanus)

The focus here is on comfort food, with a wide-ranging menu of dishes like risottos and pastas to cheesy pizzas. The popular vitello limone and lamb shanks are roasted with lemon, red wine and garlic, and wood-fired pizzas are a safe bet, with both classic and adventurous options available. For dessert, go for the Venetian cassata, tiramisu or canoli.

La Sosta (Swellendam)

At this winner of Best Italian Restaurant in 2014, there are no short cuts in tempting pastas, slow-cooked duck or lamb ragout. You might be offered seasonal dishes such as tuna or springbok carpaccio, ash-coated beef fillet with beetroot, balsamic glaze and potato millefeuille, or Italian bouillabaisse with calamari, baby octopus, white fish and clams. Desserts include a stunning panna cotta and tiramisu.

A work of art at La Sosta.

A work of art at La Sosta. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Mama Cucina Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant (Riebeek Kasteel)

This restaurant has become an institution in town and is always buzzing. The ever-changing blackboard items might include delicious broccoli-and-blue-cheese soup, grilled rump, barbecue short-rib, or the slow-roasted springbok pie with gnocchi and baby beetroot. There’s also a great list of inventive pizza with gluten-free bases available.

Pane e Vino Food & Wine Bar (Stellenbosch)

This beautiful hidden gem offers cuisine made by someone who understands Italian cuisine. Dishes change daily, but recommended dishes include tender saltimbocca is served with a mouth-watering cream sauce and creamy mash. As for the ragu, this dish has taken hours to prepare and the depth of flavours are delicious. Be sure to enquire about their signature grappa.

Ristorante Pappa Grappa at Wilderer Distillery (Simondium)

A comforting mixture of well-cooked Italian and German cuisine keeps everyone happy. Start with moreish risotto croquettes or voluptuous springbok ravioli. The seafood pasta tastes like it was cooked by an Italian mama in a coastal village.

Tiramisu and berries at Terra Mare.

Tiramisu and berries at Terra Mare. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Terra Mare (Paarl)

This Paarl landmark has 10 years of consistently excellent food under its belt. Choose from scrumptious starters such as spicy calamari-and-chorizo salad and mussels in a white-wine sauce. The confit duck leg and seared breast is as good as it gets. Enjoy tempting endings such as malva pudding or a boozy limoncello sorbet.

The interior at Tredici – The Bakers Dozen

The interior at Tredici – The Bakers Dozen. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Tredici – The Bakers Dozen (Swellendam)

Sitting upstairs at this restaurant with beautiful mountain views will give you the feeling of being in Italy. The menu stems from the baker, so expect dishes like gourmet sandwiches and pizzas. The lamb salad with greens is cooked to perfection, and the chorizo risotto is a winning choice. To finish, try the phyllo ice cream and don’t forget to grab some breads for the road.

The Garden Route

Benguela Brasserie & Restaurant (Sedgefield)

Presentation is a strong point at this lakeside spot, with dishes plated on long boards or glass platters. Wooden boards of local cheeses and meats make for a casual shared meal, while options like pork parmigiana work as heartier dishes. The menu changes every week or fortnight and is dependent on the availability of ingredients and produce.

A meaty dish at Benguela Brasserie & Restaurant

A meaty dish at Benguela Brasserie & Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Ristorante Enrico (Plettenberg Bay)

Beautiful views and aromas of slow-cooked meats and sauces make this a trip for the senses. Highly recommended dishes are the Fish Enrico, slow-cooked lamb shank, and spaghetti amatriciana with bacon, tomato and chilli. End with homemade apple-grappa or lemon-vodka sorbet.

Seafood pasta at Ristorante Enrico.

Seafood pasta at Ristorante Enrico. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Trattoria Da Vinci (Sedgefield)

This marvellous food is the result of over 20 years of Leah and Steve Baletta’s hands-on approach. Favourites include the lamb shank al forno, chicken or veal schnitzel, roast pork with crackling, or fresh tagliatelle made daily. Crusty pizzas like the Stefano with capers and anchovies are also a great choice. End off with a Mona Leah dessert.

This list was compiled of all the Italian restaurants that appeared in the 2016 Eat Out magazine. Our panel of critics rated and reviewed the restaurants nominated by you to make up the Eat Out 500, a power list of the country’s top restaurants that were featured in the magazine. Want your favourite to stand a chance of inclusion next year? Nominate them by rating and writing a review now.

 

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