Venues

Amarcord Italian Food

Amarcord Italian Food
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Cost
R125 avg main meal
Ambience
Comfy & casual
Food
Italian
Payment
Amex, Diners, Mastercard, Visa

Critic's review

Kate Liquorish

Food
Amarcord's Northern Italian style of cuisine emanates from co-owner Luciana Righi’s roots in Ravenna, located on Italy’s Adriatic coast. It’s a region known for its cured meats, excellent cheeses, balsamic vinegar and stuffed pastas, all of which you can expect to find at Amacord Osteria Italiana. Recently relocated from Illovo, very little has changed in terms of the décor, ambience and menu, but patrons wouldn’t have it any other way. Crowds have been known to flock in droves for Luciana’s zucchini fritti, homemade pastas and cozy atmosphere which she first introduced at her previous success: Asaggi. The menu at Amarcord showcases an array of exquisite ingredients treated with care and combined for a delicate flavour balance. For starters it’s a toss up between the melanzane, a sumptuous layering of aubergine, mozzarella and parmesan enrobed in a dense Napoli sauce, the caprese salad, a simple and sultry combination of Buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato, dried oreganum, fresh basil and good olive oil and the zucchini fritti, perfectly sweet and crispy, deep-fried strings of zucchini. Most tables order a plate of the fritti to share regardless. Mains will see you grappling over a selection of mouth-wateringly succulent meat dishes, freshly made pastas and a specials board that changes according to seasonal availability. The ravioli, served with a touch of burnt sage butter and a sprinkling of parmesan, is a beautifully authentic Northern Italian dish that brings meaning to word ‘wholesome’. The tender veal escalopes, with a rich and moreish porcini sauce, pack a savoury punch and the beef fillet with a balsamic reduction is a serious crowd pleaser. One must also mention their ragu pasta, made the traditional way, using both beef and pork; it’s a subtle and enchanting delight that perfectly coats the tagliatelle, without leaving a heap of sauce at the bottom of the bowl. If you have room for dessert, the recommendations are the dolce della nonna: amaretti biscuits, sabayon, pecan nuts and dark chocolate held together with marsala wine and cream or their selection of homemade gelato and sorbetto.

Service
You’re greeted and seated with care and attention. The waiters are friendly and informed, but become a little forgetful during busy service. The kitchen works at impeccable speed and is used to a full house.

Ambience
It’s relaxed, warm and always busy. Simple, white tables are covered in brown paper in anticipation of what’s to come. The emphasis is on the food rather than the décor which sets the tone for evenings focussed on flavour rather than opulent cutlery and napkins. Booking is essential.

Wine
Having only been open for three months they are still awaiting their liquor licence.

And…
Amarcord is a well-oiled machine churning out consistently good food at seriously affordable prices, there are no hidden extras, they don’t try and upsell you and it all leaves one feeling nourished, nurtured and in the mood for dessert.

(September 2016)

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

 

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  • Gwynne Conlyn

    Food
    This is one of the must-visit and go-to Italian eateries in Jozi. The menu is fabulously mouth watering and focuses on, for the most part, northern Italian cuisine. The resultant, beautifully plated food is mostly top-end, although there are some dishes that could benefit from more focus. The quality of the ingredients shine through, for example in the filetti di alici bianche (white anchovy fillets served with mixed pickles), where the main ingredient is clearly top-class. A standout dish, when in season, is the heavenly charcoal-infused grilled carcoffi (artichokes). The charcuterie is almost incomparably delicious and the rocket salad, fresh and lovely. Since it’s Italian there are a number of choices for vegetarians, and they’re all packed with flavour. Mains include seafood, veal, tender baby chicken and red meat, like the very popular filetta alla rucola e balsamico – grilled beef fillet served on a bed of mash and topped with rocket and parmesan shavings, and dressed with an irresistible balsamic glaze. Being a house speciality, the pasta is made as it should be – on the premises and melt-in-the-mouth fresh. Of the ample selection, the raviolini with burnt sage butter is sensational. Sadly, the desserts are equally enticing, but you might have to return for those once you’re able to eat again.

    Drinks
    A concise but efficient wine list. If your preference is more towards spirits, there’s a good selection. And if not, you could choose a beer from a list of local brews.

    Service
    There’s clearly an emphasis on training and knowledge and it shows in the care the waiters take. However, the service can be a touch unfocused when it’s quiet.

    Ambience
    The venue has a classic feel, almost Grande Dame kind of feel, with white tablecloths and, on the walls, framed awards and photographs of celebrities who’ve visited.

    And…
    They will prepare delicious platters for you to take home.

    (August 2015)

  • Leila Saffarian

    If you're lucky enough to have an Italian eatery nearby, where the food is not only good but seems to get better after every visit, be sure to count your blessings. Luckily for Johannesburg, Amarcord Osteria Italiana, situated in the busy Thrupps centre in Illovo, fills this Italian niche perfectly. There’s more than just lasagna on offer, but if that particular baked dish is what tickles your fancy, this restaurant’s version will have you coming back for more…

    Amarcord is the latest enterprise of Luciana Righi of Assaggi fame, and Mario Guerini of Tre Nonni – two Joburg landmarks. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are placed in all knowing Italian hands, ready to be transformed into something rather magical.

    Food
    Even for those who hardly ever order pasta at Italian eateries (because it’s possible to produce fresh, quality pasta at home), you might be convinced to try Amarcord’s lasagne after seeing a neighbour’s order being placed on a nearby table. (Besides, pasta is the house speciality here; all versions are made on the premise.)

    The rich bolognaise sauce is excellent, with not too much tomato, and the dish is baked to golden, puffy perfection. The raviolini (small ravioli) with sage-burnt butter is also the essence of simplicity, done just right.

    For a starter, the carciofi al tegame – artichokes stuffed with breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, parmesan and provolone – may be the way to go. (Though their R85 price tag might make you wince.). The zucchini fritti (fries) provide a touch of authenticity to the menu; they are light, crisp and, most importantly, not overly greasy.

    Meaty dishes are a big drawcard here, with a classic of osso bucco alla Milanese proving popular. It’s cooked in a rich, rustic sauce of tomato and celery for R145 per portion.

    Seafood seems to have a smaller starring role on the menu, depending on the sustainable varieties available. And if you need a hit of something sweet after all those savoury bites, the usual suspect of tiramisu holds pride and place in that category.

    Drinks 
    There’s a small wine list, along with the usual local beers and a host of spirits on offer.

    Service 
    Service is attentive, but might slow down slightly once the restaurant is full. Well-informed waitrons clearly know their menu and offer valued advice and suggestions. The noise level tends to be quite high when busy, but that adds to the authenticity of the overall eating experience.

    Ambience 
    The eatery was named after a Fellini film and this cinematic theme runs throughout the restaurant. Old, framed movie posters adorn the walls, along with family pictures and pops of colour from bright artwork. Classic white tablecloths add a toned down and muted feel to the space. Business lunches are the norm during the day, with serious foodies hitting the eatery in the evening.

    (June 2014)

  • The spacious and very Mediterranean venue with blow-your-socks-off food. Antipasti platters, rice croquettes, mussels, anchovy fillets and veal-filled cappelletti pasta are winners. (EO mag 2014)
  • Food
    Our starter – Pinzimonio alla Fellini – came with a carrot, celery and fennel crudité fanfare exploding from a wine glass in the middle of the plate, surrounded by numerous little bowls filled with the likes of aubergine and sundried tomato, fantastic tapenade, bresaola, pickled mushroom, and cheese, among others. Antipasti selections include suppli di riso – rice croquettes with mozzarella, Napoli sauce and zucchini chips – or brochette miste; served with olive paste, carretteliera, grilled brinjals, mozzarella, sliced tomato and grilled mushrooms. Luciana tells a lovely story of how her asparagus and brie lasagne came to life after catering a party for one of her children and finding a large brie left over. The result is truly one of the most delicious and comforting versions of lasagne imaginable, with a multitude of homemade pasta layers interspersed with asparagus, well-seasoned béchamel and cheese.If meat is your thing, opt for Cotoletta alla Milanese; a veal chop served with rocket, green beans and boiled potato or the rack of lamb. Main course options, including pasta and insalate, are many and varied, but do note that this is not a pizza joint. End the meal with a bowl of divine orange and Campari sorbetto or pistachio ice cream. Other desserts include dolce della nonna, which is described as consisting of amaretti biscuits, Marsala sabayon, cream, pecans and dark chocolate; tiramisu; chocolate fondant or panna cotta. The capuccino is great too.

    Wine
    The wine list currently offers a small selection of great wines, but one can see that this will grow as the business expands. AA Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc is a beautiful wine with superb balance and elegance at a great price. For chardonnay, Uitsig and Bouchard Finlayson Kaaimansgat are the options, while Hartenberg Weisser riesling is available for those who wish to try something different from the usual. On the red side, both the First Sighting and Vriesenhof pinot noirs are available, or go for the Vergenoegd Runner Pack red, Uva Mira merlot/cab or Waterford “The Jem”. Most of the wines are also available in a 250ml carafe as a ‘per glass’ option.

    Service
    A team of spiffy men in red-striped shirts with blood-red aprons tend to guests, and hosts Mario Guerini and Luciana Righi are also very hands-on. Dining at Amarcord Osteria is a truly pleasurable experience; these are people who have been in the industry from many years, so you can relax and enjoy the unfussy ambiance and food. Both hosts will likely visit your table at some point, and Luciana, in her deep, accented voice, will relay tales of the roasted tomatoes in her home country.

    Ambience
    The restaurant combines elements of classical northern Italian with a dash of Mediterranean and some Jo’burg smarts. The white-washed furniture, white linen and elegant glassware make it immediately apparent that this is not a run of the mill pizza/pasta Italian restaurant. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is in no way stuffy or overly ornate. This is a relaxed place where many patrons seem to know each other, as evidenced by a general back and forth greeting and air-kissing. Enter from the Thrupps Centre into a large room where the kitchen and all its activity are visible through large glass panels. A lovely verandah offers more seating giving onto Oxford Drive.

    And...
    Perhaps mid-summer Gauteng is not the best time to order the divine sounding Passatelli in Brodo – traditional pasta from Romagna made with parmesan, bread crumbs, egg and nutmeg in a veal broth – but this will without a doubt be a dish to return for on those cold Johannesburg evenings looming ahead. However, Zuppa di Cozze might be a suitable summer soup, made with fresh mussels, tomato, chilli, parsley, garlic and white wine. Does that not sound like pure, unadulterated Mediterranean bliss?(Hennie Fisher, February 2013)
  • Hennie Fisher

    A great venue, but expensive. Luciana Righi and Mario Guerini have been in the Italian restaurant business for a long time, and this is evident on every level – their latest venue in the Thrupps Centre in Illovo is spacious and very Mediterranean. Try the pinzimonio alla fellini, a lovely platter of fresh veggies, tapenade and many other antipasti-type cold cuts and marinated vegetables. Also notable are the suppli di riso (rice croquettes with mozzarella, napoli sauce and zucchini chips), the bruschette miste (olive paste, carrettiera, grilled brinjal, mozzarella, grilled mushrooms and sliced tomato) and the zuppa di cozze (fresh mussels, tomato, chilli, parsley, garlic and white wine). (July 2013)

User reviews

  • Had a wonderful evening at this quaint neighbourhood eatery. The owner/manager was friendly, hands-on and visible, but more importantly, the food was delish! I was especially impressed by their dessert and would return for Dolce Nonna something alone - it's reminiscent of a really good tiramisu minus the coffee but plus chocolate (unfortunately not pictured here)
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  • A long shot from the original Amancord in Illovo. The restuarant has little atmosphere and was less than half full for a Thursday night. The waiters were searly, uninformed and were clearly focused on exiting for the night. The Osso Bucco was recommended by the owner to be served with Tagliatelle. She categorically advised it not be served with Spaghetti, to my dismay it arrived with Spaghetti? The dish was also not your typical Osso Bucco which I love but almost a meat stew served with vegetables, quiet odd. My wife's green salad served as main course was equally as disappointing. On the plus the Italian owner was quiet charming, although we did hear her screaming her lungs out at the kitchen staff! Unfortunately and old favorite has become a thorough disappointment.
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  • Went to Amarcord for date night. Watched as everyone else was served complimentary bread. Manager looked and saw we did not get but did not bother to bring us some. Then our waiter said he would bring us some, it never arrived. Ordered starters, got the incorrect starter. Asked the waiter if the starter was incorrect and he said no, its Calamari. HAD NO CALAMARI. Asked for Tartar sauce and got Garlic butter?????????????? WTF. Checked the bill and it was indeed the incorrect starter (Who would order a full portion Zuchini Chips for a starter??) Didn't even have DESSERT as i believe if two out of two meals are a fail, why make it a hatrik? Really disappointed!!
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  • The Tuna pasta and the Tagliolini al Salmone were very disappointing. Found the owner to be unfriendly to me, yet very friendly to my husband - did not leave a good taste in the mouth !! Will not be returning.
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  • Amarcord Osteria Italiana under the ownership of legendary Luciana (who is still the guiding force behind this wonderful cusine), goes from table to table greeting return and new diners, whilst the energetic Mario, co-ordinates all to ensure everything happens, and it does. Whilst busy, we enjoyed a delicious dinner in this atmospheric venue, starting with the legendary zucchini chips, and then enjoying a range of delicious items, including the stuffed pork chop. Excellent service and just a feeling of wellbeing enhances any visit here. An asset to the Johannesburg restaurant scene.
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  • Consistently excellent Italian food. This is our favourite Italian restaurant, with some different dishes like oven roasted goat, home made pasta stuffed with prawn farce, and Dolce della Nonna.
    This restaurant differentiates itself from the hordes of Italian restaurants serving reheated bolognaise and I'm surprised it isn't full every night of the week, it deserves to be. Highly recommended.
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  • We arrived about 10 minutes late and were treated kindly and graciously. Noise levels can get unmanageable here, but were subdued that night. As always Luciana's food delivers. We had a few starters and mains to share. Suppli were fantastic, stuffed artickokes tender and delicious. The mixed salad fresh and vitello tonnato nice but a small portion. Fegato and veal escalopes great as always and served with signature zucchini chips and veg. The wine list was sadly depleted and the waiter returned a few times to tell us our choice was "out of stock" but this is a reliable and relatively constant place always worth a visit.

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  • Both the meat lasagne and the asparagus and brie lasagne were delicious. However, R96 for the small portion you receive is unjustifiable.

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  • Great pasta dishes so go and give it a go. Poor wine menu - how disappointing.

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  • First time visitor after having heard from friends about your establishment, and let me say, you have guaranteed a new regular!

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  • Welcome home Luciana and Mario! Great to have you in Illovo again, your standards as if needed, have greatly improved! The food speaks for itself.

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  • While the service was excellent, the food was ridiculously expensive for what was, at best, pretty mediocre fare and at worst, off – yes, the R140 seafood pasta special turned out to be special in all the wrong ways!

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  • What an awesome, amazing experience. Food well prepared and down right home cooked goodness. Will definitely be back!

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  • My wife and I tried Amarcord for the first time last night. The restaurant was buzzing and the atmosphere jovial. Our food was superb. Sipho, our waiter, was very attentive and informed. We had an opportunity to chat to Mario and felt like we were old long lost friends. Truly superb and we will definitely be back.

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  • Having followed Luciana from Osteria Tre Nonni days, and Mario since he Joined Luciana at Assaggi, I can honestly say that they have truly re-invented themselves! From an exceptionally high standard that they have maintained through-out, they have actually increased that standard! Keep it up guys!

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  • Comfort food at its best! Try the Ossobucco or the oh-so-heavenly asparagus and brie lasagna. Home-cooked Italian food, no frills, no fuss!

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  • Yes, yes, yes! This is the way Italian should be.

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  • A truly authentic Italian experience. Great food, great vibe. Highly recommended for those who want to eat Italian! Welcome back Luciana e Mario.

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  • All I say is superb! Had the Fillet Rossini on the specials menu. Best fillet I've had in years! Also tried the home made Campari and orange sorbet, what a refreshing combination! Hats off to Luciana and Mario!

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  • What a marvellous dining experience. Food freshly prepared and well presented. Service attentive yet relaxed. Would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for an authentic Italian mea! 5 stars to you!

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  • Truly top notch Italian dining. I'm an avid traveller to Italy, twice a year, and finally I have found a restaurant in Johannesburg that compares to the best in Italy! Well done guys, keep it up!

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  • Truly Italian restaurant.

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  • Disappointing, forgettable and poor. Valentine's dinner for 4 last week. Set menu, with 3 courses (4 if you include vile Campari sorbet, which had the subtlety of a smash and grab on Grayston Drive). 2 of the course choices had run out at 20h30; the fillet main ( 2 of 4 from our table ordered this), although dictated by the menu to be medium only came out rare and cold, dessert was a miserable excuse of a custard slice from a West-Rand bakery, and to crown everything, was met with a sense of entitlement and expectation of R450 per head. Really? The only idiot in the room was the collective fool that was our 4 souls, and will never be repeated. Avoid this restaurant at all costs.

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  • I've had dinner at Amarcord several times and in my opinion it is the best Italian restaurant in Johannesburg. The ingredients are super fresh, the dishes are imaginative and the service is brilliant. A classy experience.

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  • I went for dinner at Amarcord during the week and really enjoyed the authentic Italian food - the tagliatelle bolognese (aka ragu) was just like my grandmother used to make, the pasta, home made and cooked perfectly ! As an ex pat in South Africa the food reminds me of home and is true Italian food - the service was good and our waiter took good care of us. I most definitely will be back!

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  • Amarcord hails the return of Luciana and Mario, formally of Assaggi, to Illovo. They certainly haven't lost their touch. I agree with the previous reader, the restaurant does get packed and it is a little loud, but that for me, creates the atmosphere. All the old favorites are available with a wide range of new dishes. Our party of 10 had a fantastic night out, with good food and great service. This restaurant is highly recommended and is a must try, you won't be disappointed!

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  • Had dinner with a few friends the other night at a new Italian restaurant in Illovo called Amarcord Osteria.
    We had a great time with fantastic food. I had the Carpaccio to start and then the Risotto of the day (which was lobster) - I absolutely loved both.
    Also the best Tiramisu I've ever had. I highly recommend this restaurant.

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  • So we followed Luciana to her new place. Decor minimalist, no soft furnishings to soften the sound and the evening was loud and frenetic as a result. The service was absolutely appalling - a table of 8 was ignored and we literally had to wave our arms in the air at the waiter every time we needed basics like wine, food and dessert. Stressful and very irritating. Wine list very expensive and very little choice. The manager and Luciana herself swan around the restaurant without seeing the issues and certainly do not seem to care or be engaged with the patrons, unless you are one of the regulars they recognize or Italian. We were pleasantly surprised at the availability of the Uva Mira Bordeaux blend 2007 at R200 per bottle. Delicious. The food is exactly the same as Assagi, nothing new, no change - well executed and tasty but really not worth the bad service.

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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Alfresco
  • Booking required
  • Dinner
  • Eat Out reviewed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Smoking
  • Takeaways
  • Wheelchair
  • WiFi

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