Café del Sol Classico in Olivedale is where the brand first sunk its roots into the heart of Johannesburg diners. The food here is a continuation of that promise, never ceasing to tantalise the palate.
The traditional Italian cuisine, great ingredients and gorgeous environment all result in beaming smiles from every patron in the house. The menu is inspired by classical Italian roots, making use of only the freshest ingredients and cooking from first principles.
Daily specials include tender pasta pockets of ravioli stuffed with roasted butternut and served with crispy sage butter, or filled with freshly picked spinach and smooth ricotta with a hint of nutmeg, napped in a perfectly balanced Napolitano sauce and a dash of cream; as well as hand-rolled gnocchi with a classical selection of sauces.
The à la carte menu is extensive: think crispy squid heads with aioli, a lunch-time selection of exciting salads, hand-made pastas, traditional Italian meat dishes, and the house speciality of porcini roasted chicken. The perfectly prepared risottos are testimony to the exceptional skills of the kitchen. The chef recommends the seafood risotto, but all are fantastic.
A great new addition to the menu here is the pizza section, offering a mouthwatering selection of creative, thin-based, superb pizzas which are a must try. They add a wonderful dynamic to the already outstanding menu. Try the pizza Parma, which is piled high with peppery, crisp rocket and thin slices of Parma ham, and drizzled with truffle oil. (Treat yourself by adding extra avocado to round it off.)
All pastries, cakes and desserts are made from scratch and with a lot of skill. For guests who would like to simply pop by for a sweet treat, the coffee is sublime and definitely a worthwhile way to taste the offerings.
The wine list is fabulous, with a variety of excellent local and international flagship bottles on offer. There is something for every palate and price point. Some of the staff are not very educated about the wine list, but be bold and creative in your selection and you shouldn’t go wrong. There are also spirits, beers and cocktails.
The service is a little bit of a mixed bag. Some of the waitrons are superb, attending to every detail with knowledge of the menu and the environment. Others end up being a bit of a hindrance. The hostesses are pleasant and helpful, and booking is an easy and fuss-free process.
Café del Sol Botanico creates a wonderful ambience for guests to gather – whether it be for a social drink, celebration, romantic dinner or casual luncheon. It’s all spot on: beautiful views, natural décor, outdoor-indoor set-up, easy access to the bar, and lovely, easy-going energy. The décor is themed around nature, but with a very playful twist. The environment lends itself well to a casual lunch energy and then uplifts nicely for a dress-up dinner. Clever.
There’s a wonderful bar next door called Landmark that’s great for a pre- or post-meal drink.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
True to traditional and authentic Italian dining, the menu has a generous list of dishes with descriptions that immediately stimulate the appetite. The starters menu, for example, comprises 10 beautifully thought out dishes, using the finest ingredients such as extra rare black truffles, smoked salmon, duck, and dolcelatte gorgonzola. The classic Meditarrean seafood influence is also felt very strongly across the menu with starter dishes such as battered prawns, deep fried calamari squid heads, and bruschetta (with smoked salmon); main dishes with penne prawn and chorizo, seafood pasta with black taglioni, beetroot tagliatelle with smoked salmon cream, and seafood risotto. Their stuffed calamari main is one of the dishes that is much raved about. It is also a big plus that their seafood is SASSI certified. The Mediterranean menu also fuses tastes from other cuisines, with some proudly South African dishes present like moist beef biltong for nibbles. On a weekend, try their chicken liver special, a wonderfully creamy starter. For mains, the penne with spicy beef fillet comes highly recommended – it is made with grass-fed beef. Pizza has also recently been added in the menu and is made according to the high standards of the Italian Culinary Institute. There is also gnocchi, risotto and various fine cuts of meat available. Dessert is as beautifully and freshly made as the rest of the dishes with the standout dishes being their home-made ice-cream – comprising flavours such as oreo, dark chocolate, and peanut butter – and their baked cheesecake as well as the chocolate tart. Overall, when it comes to pricing, just remember: quality has an expensive price tag.
The drinks menu is another standout feature with a wide variety of local and French wines – ranging from sauvignon blancs, chardonnays (including unoaked – Warwick First Lady and Felicite), chenin blancs, white blends, rosés, cabernet sauvignons, merlots, shirazes, pilotages, pinot noirs and other blends. They have a wine cellar, which you are allowed to enter and explore. And they offer corkage for a maximum for up to three wines per table: but not allowed on listed wines, and free on wines older than 2003.
Expect excellent and professional service from entering the door, from where reception staff graciously and quickly seats guests at their choice of table – space and reservations allowing – to attentive waiters who keep an alert eye one each guest, regardless of whether it is their table or not.
An overall warm and hospitable atmosphere with an outdoor feel that makes it very sunny and welcoming. The restaurant, which was opened in Bryanston in November 2014 by Chiara and Ryan Viljoen, remains one of Johannesburg’s finest modern Italian eateries, with a beautiful setting that transports customers to a Mediterranean garden, even though it’s within a shopping centre. It is sister to the Olivedale branch, but is not a franchise, which is why it retains a firmly family feel, with unique and attentive eye for detail – from the dining area, to the garden-type seating area, to the bathrooms. The music is also lovely, mainly jazz, and just the right volume so as to allow for it to be noticeable only if and when guests wish to hear it as they chatter quietly among themselves.
The wine menu is from the Landmark next door.
Eat Out reviewers dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.