For many, this is a favourite for special occasions. Plus regulars abound, drawn by the Italian-style café’s upscale-casual neighbourhood vibe, stellar reputation and perpetually good food. It’s unlikely you’ll find a buzzier or livelier eatery anywhere in Durban than lunchtime here on a Sunday.
Tempting starter options include the luscious and flavourful roasted brinjal slices marinated in olive oil, vinegar, garlic and a touch of chilli; the plump and juicy mussels steamed with garlic, fresh herbs and creamy white wine sauce; the exotic trifolati mushroom dish comprising three different varieties, sliced and sautéed to succulent perfection in olive oil, garlic and parsley; and the juicy and nicely chewy octopus, oh-so-tasty and garlicky baked with olive oil, olives, fresh herbs and peppers. Ask and you might be told the secret of the tenderness of the octopus: they pop a wine cork in the water while simmering it.
There’s a good selection of salads and soups that will make vegetarian diners happy. In fact, “V” options are sprinkled throughout the menu, including classic Italian pasta dishes and thin-based pizza options, many of which are tweaked with creative flair.
If you opt for a seafood platter and you’re having a couple of starters first, you might be advised that a platter for one is ample for two people. Expect the linefish of the day, juicy queen prawns, plump langoustines, tender garlicky calamari, and firm and flavourful mussels and clams. All are prepared with olive oil and infused with garlic and herbs. They’re served on a bed of rice and are finger-sucking fabulous.
Meat-lovers will likely be happy to bite into the tender grilled fillet with creamy balsamic vinegar and Parma ham, or the thinly sliced prime rump topped with fresh rocket and Parmigiano shavings.
The dessert stand-out is their classic Italian house-made tiramisu, sublimely light and ambrosial with its layerings of mascarpone cheese, biscuit and espresso.
Wines are well-chosen and include several easy-on-the-pocket South African favourites and also some imported varietals. Corkage is R40.
Efficient, no-nonsense and runs like a well-oiled machine when the place is busy. Expect the friendly restaurant manager to willingly make suggestions and answer questions.
The restaurant is difficult to find if you don’t have clear directions. A few streets up from La Lucia mall, this red-checked tablecloth tratorria is often abuzz with family, friends and conviviality. Tables spill out onto an open verandah.
There is a “Bambino” menu for children aged 12 and younger. This offers a choice of three pastas, three pizzas or crumbed chicken strips and chips. Junior portions for junior prices.
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Typical Italian fare the likes of pizza and pasta keep everyone happy, but it’s the presence of some real culinary gem that makes this a standout eatery. The trifolati mushrooms are sensational – delicately sautéed in olive oil, garlic and parsley, they are deliciously creamy and ‘meaty’. Other highlights include baked artichokes, wood-fired with parmesan, garlic and parsley and the chicken livers, smothered in napoletana sauce with a touch of chilli and cream – for an extra helping of oomph, soak up the delicious sauce with mozzarella and onion focaccia.
Their seafood platter is the kind you languish over all afternoon in true Italian style, served with linefish, prawns, langoustine, calamari, mussels and clams – the aim is to have the sauce dripping down to your elbows by the end of it. If seafood is not your style, the meat and chicken options are just as delicious, with dishes like veal limone lightly dusted in flour and grilled with lemon; quail or baby chicken roasted in the wood fire oven, or rump Pavarotti which is served sliced with fresh rocket and shaved Parmigiano.
A succinct wine list covers both South African and some imported varietals, there’s something for everyone to enjoy over a convivial meal.
Friendly and attentive with food out of the kitchen in a flash – if you get there early. But it can be a tad slow on weekends or over peak periods, when this eatery is jam-packed.
Tucked away in the heart of Durban’s La Lucia suburb, this authentic Italian trattoria buzzes with locals and tourists alike. Think racing car flags on the walls and simply set tables with checked tablecloths, which spill out onto an open verandah. It might be time for a décor refresh though.
A relaxed family vibe means you can take the kids along too; there's a special bambino menu just for them.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.