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The best Italian restaurants in SA: our reviewers’ recommendations for 2013

Italian cuisine, perhaps more so than the food of any other country, is all about showcasing the best ingredients in simple, satisfying and soul-warming dishes. It’s about the olive oil, the hard and soft cheeses, tender veal, chewy pizza crusts, delicate ravioli parcels and herbed tomato sauces. But, most of all, it’s about the passion. From the chopping board to the dinner table, this is food to be chewed up, chowed down, and chuckled over with friends and family. Here is our pick of the top Italian eateries in the country nominated for the 2012 Eat Out DStv Food Network Award for Best Italian Restaurant, won by Café Del Sol.

Johannesburg

Assaggi
Eat Out recommends: Perfectly grilled fillet, oven-baked stuffed artichokes, or the truly sublime asparagus and brie lasagne.

Bice Ristorante (Now Luce Restaurant)
Eat Out recommends: Superb braised lamb shoulder in red wine and chickpea purée, or calf liver done Venetian-style with onions, raisins and polenta.

Café Del Sol (WINNER)
Eat Out recommends: Traditional Nonna’s light, fluffy gnocchi pillows in a subtle dolce di latte gorgonzola and walnut sauce.

Ciao Baby Cucina (Montecasino)
Eat Out recommends: Calf liver sautéed in onions, white wine and balsamic vinegar and served with on a bed of mashed potatoes, or the involtini alla pomodoro: rolls of veal stuffed with Parma ham, mozzarella and fresh basil.

Da Graziella Pizzeria
Eat Out recommends: Deep-fried supplì and arancini, both with risotto rice centres and a breadcrumb crust, to start and the roast rabbit , melt-in-the-mouth gnocchi or spaghetti alle vongole for mains.

Gema Trattoria and Pizzeria
Eat Out recommends: Homemade pastas such as carbonara and alfredo, or the thin-crust pizzas cooked in a wood burning oven.

Il Giardino Degli Ulivi
Eat Out recommends: Warthog carpaccio served with artichoke hearts, or deboned quail stuffed with fig, walnut and ricotta, wrapped in Parma ham and flambéed in grappa. The grilled beef fillet on a bed of wild mushroom risotto is also a good option.

La Cucina Di Ciro
Eat Out recommends: Wild mushroom suppli, oven-baked and served with a gorgonzola and aubergine mousse, or the chicken breast involtini stuffed with figs, ricotta and cashew nuts and served with a harissa and coconut sauce.

Mastrantonio
Eat Out recommends: Porcini pan-fried with herbs, garlic and a smidgeon of wine, or roasted artichokes.

Piza e Vino
Eat Out recommends: Thin and crispy pizzas such as Red Rocket (smoked trout, beetroot, sour cream and fennel) or the Cinderella (butternut, pumpkin seeds, goat’s cheese, red onion and basil).

Stelle
Eat Out recommends: Blissful polpettone di nonna (a slice of meatloaf covered in anchovy sauce), pesto gnocchi or meaty and satisfying ragù with rich deep flavours.

Tortellino d’Oro
Eat Out recommends: Simple spaghetti tossed with the freshest basil pesto; one of the city’s finest bresaolas served with celery and Parmesan salad drizzled with truffle oil; tortellini pasta parcels stuffed with Parma ham and mortadella; or chicken with butter and sage.

Pretoria

Fumo
Eat Out recommends: Delicate black gnocchi or white pizza (without the ubiquitous tomato).

Ritrovo Ristorante
Eat Out recommends: Classic Italian dishes like delicate scallops or the robust peasant-style fish dish with tomato and olives.

Villa San Giovanni Ristorante
Eat Out recommends: Saltimbocca (veal lightly fried in butter and white wine topped with a slice of ham, covered in mozzarella and browned in the pizza oven) and some of the best pizzas and homemade pasta in town.

Eastern Cape

Grazia Fine Food and Wine
Eat Out recommends: Various veal dishes (al limone and al marsala), beef and and seafood dishes balanced by homemade pastas and pizza.

KZN

La Lampara
Eat Out recommends: Delicious veal and fish, or thin-based pizzas put together with quality ingredients.

Pavillion Italian Restaurant
Eat Out recommends: Lumache in garlic butter and livers peri peri, or fish (grilled or battered and fried), which is deliciously crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside.

Winelands

Cucina Di Giovanni
Eat Out recommends: Pizzas, with super-thin freshly made bases and toppings such as Peter’s choice of tomato, mozzarella, beef fillet, red onion, mushroom and avocado. Also choose between traditional lasagne, panzerotti, vongole or cannelloni chicken with sundried tomato and feta.

Pane e Vino
Eat Out recommends: Sensational homemade porcini mushroom pasta or one of the veal dishes.

Garden Route

La Locanda
Eat Out recommends: Thin-crust pizza, excellent charcuterie and creamy mozzarella, all made by chefs Dario Soresi and Matteo Battani.

Ristorante Enrico
Eat Out recommends: Fresh oysters, generous portions of calamari fritti and line fish of the day. A variety of veal dishes are on the menu and starters include the sublime inslata di mare.

Cape Town

95 Keerom (Winner of Best Italian Restaurant in 2011)
Eat Out recommends: Carpaccio in various styles, butternut ravioli with sage butter, or rolled pork topped with mushroom sauce.

A Tavola
Eat Out recommends: Homemade linguine marinara or the hearty and delicious tagliatelle ragù made of minced veal.

Burrata
Eat Out recommends: Neapolitan-style pizzas such as the di mare (seafood, garlic and chilli) and the delre for truffle lovers. Pastas are excellent, too.

Il Leone Mastrantonio
Eat Out recommends: Big bean broths, carpaccio, melanzane alla parmigiano and prosciutto. Take your taste buds travelling from Florence to Milan with signature vitello dishes.

Josephine’s Cookhouse
Eat Out recommends: Cauliflower and cheese soufflé for starters and, for mains, Roman-style baked semolina gnocchi with a brown butter, sage and Parmesan sauce, or spaghetti with roast butternut, balsamic and crème fraîche. The wood-fired pizzas are also sublime.

Massimo’s
Eat Out recommends: Pizzas with thin yet chewy crusts and inventive toppings such as Italian sausage with roasted peppers and cacio cheese.

Photographs (from top): Massimo’s, Burrata, Assaggi, A Tavola, Cafe del Sol, Villa San Giovanni, Burrata, 95 Keerom
Featured on home page: Burrata

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