The word hearty springs to mind when describing this food: your belly will be full, and your heart happy. Kick off with an indulgent melanzane alla parmigiana. It’s gloriously – some would say gratuitously – cheesy, and should be shared if you intend on eating a main course. A zuppa ai frutti di mare is similarly generously portioned, but slightly lighter thanks to its broth-like texture. Grilled veal scallops are richly flavoured, and their glossy mushroom sauce perfect spread over fresh pasta – especially with a sprinkling of parmesan. The special rabbit braised with salsiccia, fresh herbs and tomato on wide ribbon pasta is boldly flavoured – perhaps a touch too salty for some. For dessert, the torta di cioccolato – a baked chocolate tart served with hazelnut gelato – is the answer to chocoholics prayers. It’s a squidgy, richly chocolate treat to finish you off for the evening.
A selection of Italian and French wines at mostly not astronomical prices (the cheapest is just R180) provides an opportunity to try out something a little different. Those after something more familiar will find the likes of AA Badenhorst, Vergelegen, Iona Vineyards and Uva Mira on the winelist. There’s also a cellar selection, Crystallum’s Mabalel pinot noir, Chamonix’s Troika, Newton Johnson Family’s Granum and Alheit Vineyards’ Cartology.
Staff are friendly and attentive – and politely amused by our attempts to eat a full three courses.
The style is from a time gone by, but the red walls and curtains, and white tablecloths are spotless, and the large dining area has a healthy buzz to it, even on chilly winter nights. Outdoor tables overlooking the library square make a pleasant option in summer.
The wine list also lists Platter stars – very helpful if big names don’t mean much to you.
Don’t expect any garden variety pizzas from this authentic Italian eatery in Claremont. A Tavola specialises in pastas, either served on their own or as the accompaniment to traditional cuts of meat, cooked and served with mouthwatering sauces. The pasta is freshly-made – as you would expect – and comes with a variety of the usual-suspect sauces. If they have them on special, the homemade meatballs are particularly recommended. You can order most pasta options as a (large) half-portion for starters and other starters include bruschetta, carpaccio and classic antipasti. But whatever you choose, make sure you add a portion of the fabulous lightly-battered, deep-fried zucchini, which is incredibly moreish and totally delicious.
Mains are substantial in size and there are usually good specials, like must-try Coniglio alla Ragu e Piselli (rabbit braised with salsiccia, peas and tomatoes) or you can settle for their signature Vitello ai Funghi e vino Bianco (veal escalopes in mushroom and white wine sauce). Portions are definitely on the big side and the food reaches your table piping hot and appetisingly decorated with black pepper and proper shavings of parmesan cheese.
This is a thoughtful selection with plenty of character and flair – whoever put this list together knows and appreciates something a little different and offbeat. The local choices are split into two, with most wines in the normal selection being fairly priced up to about R200, whilst the reserve selection ranges from around R350 upwards for some of SA’s finest wines. There are several options available by the 250 ml carafe, and they are at pains to point out that a gas preservations system is used to keep the open bottles fresh. The list is topped off with a small selection of around 10 Italian wines and a couple of French ones too.
The staff are great, friendly and chatty, greeting regulars, and knowledgeable about their product. What was particularly nice to see was that the smiling chef standing behind the counter in his open kitchen was also happy to chat and interact with guests, coming out to tables and calling orders, as well as cracking jokes across the pass. There are plenty of staff on the floor as well, so no need to ever wait for anything for any length of time.
If truth be told, it isn’t the most pre-possessing restaurant, being on the corner of a modern block building, and the owners have tried to add softness and warmth with lots of deep colour, immaculate drapes and well-chosen pictures. But the atmosphere is exactly what you want in a neighbourhood Italian restaurant: busy (even early on a mid-week evening), bustling, warm and cheery. Stacks of Italian foodie imports line the shelves, as well as lots of large-format Italian bottles of water and wine.
This is possibly the most authentic Italian eatery in the southern suburbs, and a sure bet for a great plate of pasta when the comfort-food craving hits.
The worthy sister of the much-loved Assaggi (p. 93), this neighbourhood favourite consistently delivers honest, simple dishes packed with flavour. They choose to offer fewer things done well – there’s no pizza! – but they’re always busy, which is a good sign. The changing specials are particularly good, or order linguine with meat or seafood ragout, the antipasti platter, zucchini fries or the pasta vongole.
Hearty, home-style Italian fare with emphasis on simplicity and flavour. The open kitchen is a wonderful touch. The homemade pastas can’t be beat and you must try the linguine marinara or the tagliatelle ragu made of minced veal, which is hearty and delicious. Do save space for dessert: the tiramisu and the dolce della nonna (amaretti biscuits, zabaglione, cream, walnuts and chocolate) are sublime.
A good selection at various price points. Try a carafe of an Italian varietal.
Well-trained staff are efficient and friendly.
No frills, but it’s welcoming and suitable for family get-togethers.
There are daily specials available. Ask your waiter for a chef’s recommendation. (IGY, October 2012)
Not the greatest setting and the service can be patchy, but the food is very good and I like the fact that they do fewer things very well, i.e. there's no pizza! One of the better restaurants in the 'burbs. It's an easy choice to default to and the changing specials are particularly good. Recommended because it's the worthy sister of the much-loved Assaggi. Try the zucchini fries and pasta vongole. (July 2013)