Venues

Al Firenze

Al Firenze
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Cost
R135 avg main meal
Ambience
Comfy & casual, Family friendly
Food
Italian, Pizzas, Seafood, Vegetarian
Payment
Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Corkage
R60 per bottle

Critic's review

Wanda Hennig

Food
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.

Drinks
Wines are well-chosen and include several easy-on-the-pocket South African favourites and also some imported varietals. Corkage is R40.

Service
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.

Ambience
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.

And…
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.

(August 2017)

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

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  • Nicola Ashe

    Food
    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.

    Drinks
    A succinct wine list covers both South African and some imported varietals, there’s something for everyone to enjoy over a convivial meal.

    Service
    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.

    Ambience
    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.

    And…
    A relaxed family vibe means you can take the kids along too; there's a special bambino menu just for them.

    (September 2016)

    Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.

  • Tracy Gielink

    Food
    The food at Al Firenze has stood the test of time. For decades, locals have been mesmerized by signature dishes like the spectacular trifolati (an enormous plate of wild boletus mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, garlic and parsley) and the rosette pasta, which sees Italian ham and cheese wrapped in spinach and egg pasta and baked in the pizza oven in a cheese sauce. The wood-fired oven is well utilized, producing thin-based pizzas and dishes like artichokes baked in parmesan, garlic and parsley, or quail stuffed with olives, herbs and Parma ham. There are always interesting specials so check out the chalkboard before ordering.

    Drinks
    Expect an extensive wine list for a neighbourhood trattoria. It is clearly broken down by varietal, and white wines get more representation than their red counterparts. There’s a smattering of imported Italian wines and those made from Italian varietals.

    Service
    In keeping with the setting, the service is casual, informative and friendly. Locals are placated by the kitchen’s quick turnaround time but service can falter a little when the restaurant is operating at capacity.

    Ambience
    The restaurant appears like a culinary oasis in the heart of suburbia. The gentle aroma of garlic and strains of Italian music waft in the air and entice you into the restaurant, which spills out onto a covered veranda. It has a cozy charm despite the somewhat standard décor of checked tablecloths paired with red plastic chairs and a large Ferarri flag on the wall.

    And…
    The kids’ meals are well priced and generous.

    (August 2015)

  • Tracy Gielink

    Food
    The food at Al Firenze has stood the test of time. For decades, locals have been mesmerised by signature dishes like the spectacular trifolati (an enormous plate of wild boletus mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, garlic and parsley) and the rosette pasta, which sees Italian ham and cheese wrapped in spinach-and-egg pasta and baked in the pizza oven in a cheese sauce. The wood-fired oven is well utilised, producing thin-based pizzas and dishes like artichokes baked in parmesan, garlic and parsley, or quail stuffed with olives, herbs and Parma ham. There are always interesting specials, so check out the chalkboard before ordering.

    Drinks
    Expect an unexpectedly extensive wine list for a neighbourhood trattoria. It is clearly broken down by varietal, and white wines get more representation than their red counterparts. There’s a smattering of imported Italian wines and those made from Italian varietals.

    Service
    In keeping with the setting, the service is casual, informative and friendly. Locals are placated by the kitchen’s quick turnaround time, but service can falter a little when the restaurant is operating at capacity.

    Ambience
    The restaurant appears like a culinary oasis in the heart of suburbia. The gentle aroma of garlic and strains of Italian music waft in the air and entice you into the restaurant, which spills out onto a covered veranda. It has a cosy charm despite the somewhat standard décor of checked tablecloths paired with red plastic chairs and a large Ferrari flag on the wall.

    And…
    The kids’ meals are well priced and generous.

    (July 2015)

  • Food
    It’s comforting that the menu hasn’t changed for years, but keep an eye on the specials board for interesting additions like wild boar ragù. Favourites include porcino mushrooms cooked in olive oil, garlic and parsley, and trademark spinach pasta rosettes with ham, Italian cheese and cream. Pizzas are exemplary.

    Wine
    The list has broad appeal as it moves easily from good value prospects to pedigreed wines.

    Service
    Fast, friendly and capable. An effective team exudes genuine warmth and ensures a fuss-free dining experience.

    Ambience
    A supremely casual – and definitive – neighbourhood trattoria. Stereotypical red and white checked tablecloths feature along with mandatory Italian paraphernalia. Soak up the silence in the charming outside area.

    And...
    It’s a wonderful family restaurant. (TG, October 2011)

User reviews

  • I have had three really bad meals at Al Firenze, where the food and service was abysmal, and therefore I hadn’t been there for a year. I was invited last week and had a really good meal, great octopus starter and exceptional mussel cracker (not sure if it’s on the red list). I was happy to be invited for a lunch today and 3 of us ordered Dorado as the catch of the day, with salad. What we received was the catch of last week, completely over cooked, with veg! So we sent it back, only to receive Fish that was even worse, this time we were told it was rock cod, which was inedible. My guess is that they ran out of dorado and produced Rock Cod from the freezer and had to microwave it before grilling it. It was almost impossible to cut through the Fish. To be honest this is what I expect from Tony’s establishment and I am always amazed to find the restaurant full. Alastair (ps we were accompanied by a well renowned retired chef and restauranteur)
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  • The most pathetic service I have ever had at a restaurant, our waiter was hardly ever around and we waited 50 minutes for our meals which did not arrive. When we spoke to the manager (which we had to go up to on our own as our waiter wasn't around to ask for her) she did not give us any better service. We had eventually had enough of their poor service and paid for our drinks and left, having waited for an hour. Definitely not a good experience, would never go back.
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  • A little neighbourhood gem with tasty wood-fired pizzas.

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  • Crispy pizza and great seafood and pasta dishes.
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  • Favorite restaraunt to this day, food is amazing and the service was excellent. Al Firenze is the place to be!
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  • It was my first time visiting the restaurant with family and it will be my last. The food was not cooked properly; the chips looked as if they had been re-fried. Four of the mains were sent back and one of the orders only came when people were almost finished eating. During the evening there were a few times when we requested to see the manager but he never came to the table. I am very dissatisfied with the level of service and food. 

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  • We had lunch for eight on a busy Sunday. Each person was delighted with their meal. Fresh fish and an excellent variety of vegetables.

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  • We enjoyed a cheerful vibe in this restaurant. We enjoyed a tasty carbonara with crispy pancetta and a (slightly oily) lasagne packed with flavour. Enjoyable, relaxed time.

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  • If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. J. R. R. Tolkien
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  • Quite frankly, it has to be said that no where in the world can you get a whole fresh fish, huge, cooked to perfection served on a platter. Its a Durban legend, and its a dish Enrico has perfected, and you have to eat it before you die.
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Child friendly
  • Dinner
  • Dog-friendly
  • Eat Out reviewed
  • Food
  • Functions
  • Halaal friendly
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Takeaways
  • Wheelchair

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