An ample list of focaccia, insalata and minestra introduces a comprehensive but thoughtful menu. Antipasti freddi or caldi offers many fine examples of Italian antipasti, and the well-known melanzane ala parmigiana is a real treat – perfectly cooked and deliciously flavoured. The carne section includes many well-known Italian meat items such as filetto alla pepe, saltimbocca, scalopina, veal piccata and involtini, but also a lovely fish section.
The pasta and pizza sections are not unmanageably large and the lasagna al forno is perfectly cooked and deeply delicious. The dolce section includes an elegant lemon sorbet with vodka, affogato or – for those craving something sweeter – a pavlova, a cassata or a crème brûlée.
Nothing beats starting an Italian dinner with a glass of Prosecco DOC Zonin Special Cuvée NV, but there are other great wines available by the glass such as Knorhoek and Klein Constantia Pinot Noir, all kept perfectly stable with their Le Verre de Vin system. South African wines are well-represented and include top-end ranges.
The waiters are clearly used to managing a packed restaurant, so even a busy Friday evening with many families with children do not faze the waiters, who remain cool, competent and professional. Everyone – from the reception clerk to the floor manageress and waiters – introduced themselves eloquently and were able to answer questions without hesitation. A system or diagram for taking orders at tables would be helpful, though, to reduce that awkward moment when the food arrives at the table and guests have to indicate who is eating what.
Situated on the first floor of a nondescript suburban building, one enters past a large drinks dispensing/bar area. The obligatory pizza station and oven sits slightly elevated at the back of the main room, which is jam-packed with tables in various sizes and configurations. Bulkheads with sandstone trompe-l'œil and Italian art scenes decorate the walls.
They also do food to take away, which appeared to be a very popular choice for people wishing to enjoy a good meal at home. The pressure of these take-away meals is eased by a small entrance area, where waiting customers can wait for their orders to be finished.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
Diane de Beer
There’s something classic about the food here. You can pick a ravioli brodo or a melanzane alla parmigiana as a starter, both with a strong element of comfort. Pasta is freshly made and, if you’re a gnocchi fan but the quattro formaggi (four cheeses) is too rich, try another option like the osso buco sauce, which is a great alternative, or ask about other combinations. Their rump pizzaiola is prepared in the pizza oven with olives, capers and mixed peppers then served with polenta. Another good pick here is their Costata Fiorentina, a 500g T-bone roasted in the pizza oven and dressed with olive oil, black pepper and a perfect amount of garlic. The meat options are great but they also have a large selection of pizzas, including the quattro stagioni – with anchovy, mushrooms and ham – which is packed with flavour. Desserts are pretty standard, including tiramisu, cassata tartufo and Italian kisses, so perhaps include one of their focaccias at the start of the meal.
They have a good selection, with many Italian vintages starting with a prosecco, a Piedmont chianti or a red or white Veneto. Locally they mix it up with a Steenberg Brut chardonnay or a Groote Post brut rose.
It’s a large space, often so packed that the staff have to be on their toes, but if they should miss anything owner Michela Paoletich has a hands-on approach and keeps an eye out.
The low lighting, especially at night, might catch you unawares but as this is a Pretoria treasure, their diners hold sway and this would be their choice. It’s a large space with quite a few nooks and crannies, so regulars might pick their spots. Parking is easy but it's wise to make a booking because of their popularity.
They have an extensive menu so check with your waiter about specials or particular dishes.
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