This family-run restaurant is a real hidden gem inside a mall you’d never ordinarily find yourself in, but the food will have you returning regularly and leave you beaming from ear to ear from starter to dessert. It’s a true taste of authentic Italian food that’s close enough for those who can’t make it to Italy, thanks to mother Luciana Traccini, daughter Chiara Viljoen and son Ryan Viljoen.
The fresh, wholesome, simple and slow-cooked menu can be slightly daunting with the many options, so ask your waitron (or Chiara) for recommendations based on what you feel like. Restaurant favourites include Italian primavera rolls, deep-fried rice pastry with imported Parma ham, rocket and smoked mozzarella (they taste like fancy spring rolls) served with a white sauce; a creamy, moreish tomato soup topped with gorgonzola and chives; and battered prawns served on a bed of lemon-infused mashed avocado, cherry tomatoes and chilli sauce. Back on the starter menu, by popular demand, are tender, crumbed squid heads served with a homemade roasted garlic mayonnaise.
You’d be wise to follow Chiara’s advice on her favourite dishes for your main course: porcini chicken, two crispy-skinned roasted breasts on the bone covered with porcini mushroom sauce and served on a bed of porcini mushroom, pea and truffle oil risotto – definitely a risotto to convert the unconverted – and seasonal vegetables. She also recommends the gorgonzola fillet, pan-fried in a homemade balsamic and port reduction, served with spring onion mash and a rustic rocket, rosa tomato and parmesan salad; the stuffed calamari filled with red pepper, olives, capers, ricotta, parmesan and chilli, and lastly, the al salmone vodka gnocchi served in a creamy napoletana sauce. The options are gloriously endless and portions are generous.
Mama’s pavlova is an uncontested favourite for dessert – sticky meringue, vanilla cream and fresh berries.
There's a wide wine list with a few local favourites such as Sophie Te’Blanche, Warwick First Lady and Haute Cabrière. There's also an interesting variety of red, white and rosé ‘Proudly South African Italian wines’ – Italian cultivars, grown and made into wine in South Africa.
Flawless, with enthusiastic and friendly staff even when the restaurant is full, which it almost always is.
Candlelit dinner adds a soft romance to the predominantly red and white décor. Inspirational dining, quite literally, is highlighted by thoughtful, philosophical quotes on the menu and all over the walls.
Book in advance – getting a table as a walk-in is unlikely.
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Nonna’s menu never disappoints and one can see this from the smiles beaming off every face in this hidden gem of a restaurant in Olivedale. Despite the fact that Café del Sol is to be found in a somewhat semi-deserted shopping center, it is always full and the food never ceases to tantalise the palate. Every item on the menu is inspired from classical Italian roots and is cooked from first principles, using only the freshest ingredients. Nonna, the founder Italian founder and patron of this fine establishment, can often be seen keeping a watchful eye on her kitchen hands, when she is not walking the floor and taking orders from her clients, or sharing the daily specials. These include tender pasta pockets of ravioli stuffed with roasted butternut and served with crispy sage and beurre noisette, hand rolled gnocchi and classical Napolitano sauce, crispy squid heads with aioli and seared salmon served with hand cut pasta or veal saltimbocca. The a la carte menu is extensive. The perfectly prepared risottos are a testimony to the exceptional skills of the establishment and the delicate porcini risotto should not be missed. For the health conscious, the seared salmon, crusted in black sesame and served with avocado mash and grapefruit is just mouthwatering. Oh, and do not forget the puds and cakes – all made in-house and totally delicious. Rich, moreish and over the top. What a joy it is to dine at such a wonderful, easygoing establishment where the food is so comforting. It is not a cheap night out, but is well worth it.
The wine list is of a reasonable size, with a suitable selection of both red and white wines within most budgets. There’s also a good selection of beers and spirits to choose from.
The service is excellent but since Alex, the former host, has moved to the Botanica branch, it does feel as though the restaurant has lost one thumb. Over time it is sure to grow back but for now they are regaining balance, even though it has been six months. The staff on the floor are always kind and friendly and helpful, but be warned they are not always as friendly when you try and phone to book, perhaps because they are terribly busy. Booking via e-mail (and well in advance to avoid disappointment) is sometimes easier.
The ambience is fabulous: feel good quotes from floor to ceiling all over Café del Sol inspire conversation, and the patrons are always bubbly and lively. The hum of the busy kitchen filters into the atmosphere and creates a high-energy buzz, vibrant and fun. At night, candlelight and low lighting create a soft ambience; over lunch time the feel is more street style café.
This is also a great spot to pop in for coffee and cake during the day.
The 2015 Best Everyday Eateries are voted for by Eat Out readers. To find the winners, we calculated the restaurants with the highest average ratings on eatout.co.za from 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2015 – that’s a full year of reviews and star ratings. Café del Sol in Randburg won the award for the best Italian eatery in Gauteng.
Eat Out critic Jodi-Ann Pearton paid them a visit, to find out why Joburg residents keep coming back for more.
Despite the fact that Café del Sol is to be found in a somewhat semi-deserted Olivedale Corner Centre, it is always full and the food never ceases to tantalise the palate. Every item on the menu is inspired from Italian roots and is cooked from first principles, using only the freshest ingredients.
Luciana Traccani, the Italian founder and patron of this fine establishment, can often be seen keeping a watchful eye on her kitchen hands, when she is not walking the floor and taking orders from her clients or sharing the daily specials.
These include tender pasta pockets of ravioli stuffed with roasted butternut and served with crispy sage and beurre noisette, hand-rolled gnocchi and Napolitana sauce, crisp squid heads with aioli, and seared salmon served with hand-cut pasta.
The à la carte menu is extensive. The perfectly prepared risottos are a testimony to the exceptional skills of the establishment, and the delicate porcini risotto should not be missed. For the health-conscious, the seared salmon, crusted in black sesame and served with avocado mash and grapefruit, is just mouth-watering.
Oh, and do not forget the puds and cakes – all made in-house and totally rich, moreish and over the top.
What a joy it is to dine at such a wonderful, easygoing establishment where the food is so comforting. It is not a cheap night out, but it’s well worth it.
The wine list is of a reasonable size, with a suitable selection of both red and white wines within most budgets. There’s a good selection of beers and spirits to choose from.
The service is excellent, but since former host Alex has moved to the Botanico branch in Bryanston it does feel as though the restaurant has lost one thumb. Over time it is sure to grow back, but for now they are regaining balance, even though it has been six months.
The staff on the floor are always kind and friendly and helpful, but be warned they are not always as friendly when you try to book by phone, perhaps because they are terribly busy. Booking via email (and well in advance to avoid disappointment) is sometimes easier.
The ambience is fabulous: Feel-good quotes from floor to ceiling inspire conversation, and the patrons are always bubbly and lively. The hum of the busy kitchen filters into the atmosphere and creates a high-energy buzz. At night, candlelight and low lighting create a soft ambience; over lunch time the feel is more street style café.
This is also a great spot to pop in for coffee and cake during the day.
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).
Gwynne ConlynIt's a relaxed place, but the entire experience is executed with absolute precision and passion. The décor and open-plan kitchen are inspiring and inviting. Cafe del Sol stands out because of its consistency and the fact that everything works together to give a complete dining experience. A neighbourhood favourite for mid-week dinner. The gnocchi is always light, as it should be; also order the tender stuffed calamari.
The waiters and staff were all friendly and helpful, we made special requests that were all obliged. One of our favorite restaurants in Jhb.
Food was phenominal, service even better and we have had the best time because of the amazing vibe. Alessandro has the best body ever
Fabulous food, great ambience!
Fantastic meal - excellently prepared with an incredible selection of wines to go along with it. The rack of lamb is a definite must-try. But please don't kid yourself and please book! Be sure to ask for Alessandro to take care of you.
Had the porcini ravioli, the filling was delicious, but I would have liked more filling and less pasta. The pavolva afterwards was good, but nothing exceptional.
Not a single thing on the menu or the night's specials, that wasn't incredible. We all ordered starters, main and desserts and all had some of everyone else's.
Food was just spectacular. The taste and the presentation.
The host and the staff were just top notch as well.
Such a weird place for it be, but you feel so good when you leave.
So hard to believe that it has been a year since I discovered this gem of a restaurant in Olivedale. Fabulous food - everything from their innovative starters, mouth watering mains and exceptional desserts make it very easy to go back for more. In addition to the food, the service can not be faulted, exceptional staff all round!
The most amazing food!
Great vibe, love this place definitely will be back!
Amazing food! Amazing service! 10/10! Best Italian food ever!
What was supposed to be a quick lunch, turned into a food experience never to be forgotten. I tried the gnocci to compare it to others I've had and even with a "normal" (which I don't anything is here) alfredo sauce, the little dumplings were out of this world. The service was prompt and very friendly (Thank you, Blitz). Thanks to a conversation about gnocci with the owner just before we left, we had to buy Locatelli's "Made in Italy". Yet another restaurant that will definitely see us again.
Consistent good food, good atmosphere, good prices - never disappoints.
Stunning food, best hostess, Michelle, and waitress, Ali. Will come back, all the way from Cape Town. Thank you Mr Mugabe for chasing these lovely people to our counrty.
Great restaurant, great food, great service. We will be back.
Alexandro is the perfect introduction to the best restaurant in Jozi, starters were gastronomically superb. Mains were out of this world! Joubert was a fantastic waiter! Ambiance was wonderful.
Warm service, incredible wine list at moderate prices (a full page of SA bubbles!), homemade pasta and an Amaretto Semifreddo to die for.
Outstanding food, service and atmosphere!
Top class! Best Italian in Joburg...by far. 'Fidatevi di me.'
Relaxed and gracious setting. Excellent hospitality and food to die for! Bravi!
Thank you for a wonderful meal... The pavlova is sublime!
Excellent food, great atmosphere, great service.
Brava Luciana, Ryan e Chiara, we ate very well and will certainly see you soon.
Fantastic, delicious and excellent service.
Amazing night! Food was great, atmosphere warm and relaxing and the service brilliant! My taste buds danced through all 3 courses. Beautiful gourmet evening, not to be missed.
Such an amazing dining experience!
Reasons why you should come dine here,
-kick ass service!
Will do it again for sure!
Fantastic food, great service and atmosphere.
Excellent food with excellent service.
Visited cafe del sol on a recommendation and wasn't let down. The food was delicious and the service outstanding. The best pavlova around! If I didn't live in London I would visit this place on numerous occasions.
Thank you Luciana for your wonderful hospitality and divine food. It was perfection from starters till the end. Fantastic. Nicholas and Heidi
Excellent restaurant! For our mains, my wife went with the Pesto (enjoyed this), my son got the Ragu (probably the best I have ever tasted) and I chose the beef Wellington (yes in an Italian restaurant, we can let the French, Irish and English fight over the origin of the dish, but I prefer the one I had here). As you can see, I tasted all their plates as it all looked so delicious. Loved all the mains I tasted on the day and can't wait to go back there.
Cafe del sol is without a doubt one of the finest restaraunts in JHB. I had the beef fillet which was prepared to perfection. Thank you Alessandro for recommending the dish. Best steak ever. I will definitely be coming back with a crew. Deeven Pather
A fabulous restaurant with outstanding food and possibly the best wine list in town. Attentive service but very noisy in the venue. Love this spot.
Awesome vibe, amazing food and a fantastic service! A personal touch like no other restaurant, it truly was a great experience!
This is our go-to restaurant in Joburg. The only restaurant that serves the food I love - where you absolutely get your money's worth. Divine, sublime food, consistently fab service and quality every time we go. My latest obsession is their homemade ice-cream - the liquorice, coffee and burnt caramel flavours are out of this world!
Awesome service, one of the best dinners I have had in a long time. Oh! And the sorbet is delicious!
Fantastic as always. Sure it was a home run. Did not manage to close the business deal though...next week though she will sign.
What a fabulous evening! Food was divine! Service beyond excellent. See you again soon. PS - even closed a business deal.
Went out to dinner with the girls. What an absolute pleasure. The service was fantastic and the staff very friendly. The food was superb, Nonna's Ragu really lived up to its name and the cheesecake was scrumptious. The wine was well priced. They will definitely be seeing us again. Book in advance, that's the advice.
Our dinner date, in search of good Italian food, took us all the way to Olivedale and this beautiful restaurant in a small centre...the food was mind-blowing (home-made ravioli!), setting great and service topped it all! Very good wine list as well.
No wonder it's the best Italian restaurant in SA! Well done, we will be back for more!
Our first impression was a disaster as we had made a booking and they didn't have us on the list, almost walked out, but Alexander saved the day. The starters, mains and desserts were perfect and flawless. Definitely one of the best in Johannesburg.