Dining out in Johannesburg often means enjoying lunch or dinner in yet another shopping complex. The situation is what it is, but what makes the above more tolerable, in fact even pleasurable, is enjoying Italian cuisine at its best, in a restaurant that not only puts Nonna’s cooking to shame but also received the title of Best Italian Restaurant in 2012 from Eat Out. Clearly with good reason; there’s a load of good chatter happening about Café del Sol.
A large menu means there is something for every taste. Naturally, you'll find pasta, as with any good Italian eatery. The handmade ravioli and gnocchi in particular are very tempting. When it comes to the ravioli of the day – hand-made pasta pockets with a seasonal filling – only ten portions are made daily, so hold thumbs they’ve still got some left for you. The same principle goes for the gnocchi, which comes served with browned butter and sage, a Napoletana sauce, or fresh basil pesto.
As for the risottos, the porcini version won’t disappoint. Porcini mushrooms, fresh peas and a hint of truffle oil add extra flavour to this dish of perfectly cooked rice (R105). If carne is your thing, the tender rolled pork fillet will have you relishing every bite. It’s a delicious dish of rolled pork fillet, stuffed with parma ham, fontina and smoked mozzarella, and served with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and a sage sauce. The flavours complement each other beautifully and the sage really enhances the flavour of the pork (R120).
Stuffed calamari is one of their best-sellers: delve into Falklands calamari tubes filled with red pepper, green olives, capers, ricotta cheese, Grana Padano and chilli. It's served with thin capellini pasta, seasonal stir-fried vegetables and a beurre blanc sauce (R115).
A good selection of wines present, along with local beers and spirits.
Service is excellent and the waiters very attentive. They show a thorough knowledge of the menu and are helpful when it comes to food and wine pairings.
The restaurant has a fresh, clean and modern feel. The walls and floors are adorned with foodie-inspired quotes. There is a buzz in the air as the restaurant fills up. Patrons seem to relax into the ease that flows from the kitchen to the tables.
If there is any space left for a touch of la dolce vita, give the dark chocolate tart a try. One portion is rich and decadent enough to share (R50).