Ilse van der Merwe
There are three main categories on the menu at Asta: starters, pizza and pasta - all being made fresh on the premises. Apart from the 15 resident pasta items on the main menu where you can choose your favourite type of pasta to go with the sauce (tagliatelle, spaghetti, penne, gnocci or tortellini), you’ll also find others on the specials board, served strictly with specific types of pasta (like the vongole served with spaghetti).
Starters vary between well-known, simple, classic Italian salads like panzanella, carpaccio and bruschetta. These are mostly only for the really hungry, as the pizzas and pasta are generously portioned.
Pizzas are individually hand-rolled and baked in a wood fired pizza oven on the deck outside. With a choice of nine classics to choose from (as well as one or two from the specials board), most people should find something that they love. Pizzas are thin based with crunchy charred edges and has a lovely smoky flavour.
Like most locals, you might just find your favourite dish and stick to it for life, like the mafiosa with tagliatelle - a simple yet punchy combination of garlic, capers, chjilli, anchovy and onion. This is what Italian-style pasta was meant to be, with a focus on perfectly cooked pasta finished in a frying pan, flavoured with simple ingredients just covering the pasta (not drenched in all kinds of thickened artificial sauces). Other favourites remain dishes like lasagne bolognese, cozze (mussels with napoletana, chilli, onion and Cinzano) and ladrona (olive oil, herbs, peas, pork sausage & porcini).
Dessert is an understated affair with only three options available: chocolate salame, affogato and tiramisu.
The wine list is limited but very reasonably priced, listing local wines like Zonnebloem, Stellenrust & Muratie. A small list of craft beers are also available, as well as classic Italian spirits like sambuca, limoncello and grappa. Or try an aperitif like Aperol, Campari or Cinzano to get the vibe going. Coffees include options like espresso coretto (espresso with grappa) for the brave, or stick with a regular Americano or a cup of tea.
A limited selection of iced teas and non-alcoholic drinks are also available.
On making a telephonic booking, you might be greeted by owner Roberto Botello with his distinctive muffled voice coupled with a heavy Italian accent. Roberto and his son Nicol take great pride in their establishment and serve everyone with professionalism and introverted charm - at least one of them are always on site. Although they both personally serve tables, they also have a small team of waiters and staff that are always friendly, informed, calm and ready to help.
Asta is situated in a contemporary, simple space in central Stellenbosch, on Dorp Street. Although there are no parking off street, most people are prepared to park a little down the street and take a walk to the restaurant. With limited seating inside the small restaurant, the open-air wooden deck at the back remains a favourite during warmer months. A roaring fireplace inside is a welcome sight during Winter. Ambiance is tranquil and relaxed.
Although there is no kids menu (they kindly ask via the menu that “children remain seated”), many children frequent the restaurant with their families and they love the pizza.
Best for a relaxed midweek dinner with friends and family.
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