Friday, December 7th, 2018
Reviewed by Nicola Jenvey
The authentic tastes of Italy take centre stage in this homely restaurant. Food heaven among the starters include the melanzane parmigiana (layers of brinjal, Napoletana sauce and mozzarella cheese baked in a wood-fire oven); sliced wild Boletus mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, garlic and parsley; artichokes baked in the wood-fired oven with parmesan cheese and garlic; and grilled Patagonian calamari tubes and tentacles seasoned with garlic and fresh lemon for a sea freshness and saltiness, leaving the senses calling for another serving.
Pasta dishes cover the gamut and are rich, soul-embracing dishes dripping with cheese, tomato, garlic and fresh herbs or creamy white sauces. The pizzas are thin-based slices of pleasure – the dough is crisp and fresh, the toppings equally fresh, and the combinations delicately balance salty and savoury, with opulent lashings of cheese. The prawns served with the marina pizza deliver on the expectation for fleshy plumpness, while the inclusion of artichokes on several options will throw the undecided into angst.
The Natal pizza – topped with ham, prawns, chilli and banana – pays homage to local cuisine amid the more common Italian homage of Napoletana, Veneziana, tre colore and capone.
Fresh whole fish and seafood, baby chicken, veal and meat dishes round out the dining options.
There are also five children’s dishes on the menu strictly for patrons under 12 years old and dinner can be concluded with tiramisu, cheesecake, Italian kisses or cassata for the holistic Italian experience.
The comprehensive wine list covers South Africa’s outstanding wine industry from the smaller boutique producers to the mass market options known to the majority. Mark-ups are on the heavier side, but there is a wide selection of wines by the glass. The restaurant also supports local innovation, retailing the Poison City Brewing craft beers, and there’s a selection of after-dinner drinks for those squeezing the last moments out of an outstanding evening.
From the welcome on arrival to the friendly but not overbearing attention and willingness of the waiters to the final farewell, service is handled with professional slickness.
Designed to flow seamlessly between the outdoors and inside, the ambience in Al Firenze suits the tropical heat of Durban. Tables are widely spaced for intimacy even in a large restaurant and there’s an area that can potentially be booked out for a private function.
A romantic dining experience on a special occasion that blows the budget or a gathering of family and friends.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.