A full house on a rainy Tuesday in winter is powerful evidence that a restaurant must be doing something/ a lot right. And what Il Leone does about as well as any restaurant in Cape Town is serve good size portions of authentic-seeming food at a favourable value-to-price ratio. That’s why so many diners walk out determined to visit again and to tell friends and colleagues about the experience. The menu is large and contains most of what punters would expect from an Italian restaurant. The meat and fish carpaccio starters are generally excellent, as are the bruschetta and fried calamari. The Caprese is notable for a better quality mozzarella than is usually the case in franchised restaurants. There is a lengthy selection of short, long and filled pastas, with the linguini Portofino – prawns, cherry tomatoes, rocket and pine nuts in a white wine, olive oil, garlic and chili sauce – being a particular favourite. There is also a bounteous selection of fish, chicken and meat mains – with the veal dishes exciting particular approval. The tiramisu and crème caramel are both made on the premises and both finish the meal with not-to-sweet aplomb.
The wine list is extensive and interesting. There’s a good selection of Italian wines as well as some South African rarities at fairly elevated prices. The selection offered by the glass is a little uninspired, though.
The staff are all well-trained and very personable, always watchful for the need to top up a glass or clear a plate.
Il Leone is almost always full, and so pulses with energy and conversation. Décor is simple and stylish and the for sale paintings on the walls add visual interest.
There is a good selection of aperitifs and digestifs to enjoy at the bar if you want to prolong the evening.
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You’ll get all the popular Italian classics at this vibey Green Point eatery, and generally well-prepared. They are renowned for their carpaccio di pesce made from whatever available fish is freshest. It’s very good, as is the Parma ham with spanspek which is served with an (over-)generous portion of rocket. A criticism, though, is the coarseness of the presentation – it doesn’t always match the quality of the food on the plate. A case in point is the panzotti – a very tasty pasta parcel with artichoke and risotto – swims rather unattractively in an excess of butter and sage sauce.
Another one of the specialties of the house is the linguine Portofino – perfectly cooked pasta smothered by a scrumptious mélange of prawns, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts in a chilli, garlic and white wine sauce. It all hangs together perfectly. There’s short and long pasta, open and closed; with all the traditional fillings.
There’s also no shortage of options for the non-pasta community. Fish of the day, chicken breast done various ways, and veal, lamb and beef done as you would expect. The grilled veal rack is legendary. For the gargantuan appetite, the 700g Costata alla Fiorentina awaits. Tiramisu provides a satisfactorily traditional end to the meal.
There is a decent selection of local and imported wines available. It would be interesting if there were a greater effort made in sourcing the increasing number of wines made locally from traditional Italian varieties. More wines by the glass would also be welcome.
The waiters are generally well-trained and hospitable.
It has an intimate feel despite an upstairs and downstairs sprawl. Tables are spaced sufficiently apart to allow easy conversation despite the convivial hubbub. The ‘for sale’ paintings on the wall add a bright touch.
Use the opportunity to explore the world of grappa. There are some very good examples behind the bar.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.
Italian food the way it’s meant to be – simple, fresh and tasty – is what you’ll find at this popular Greenpoint spot. Those in the know will aim straight for the carpaccio di pesca (fish carpaccio), especially when tuna is available. It’s tissue paper thin, drizzled with good olive oil and scattered with capers and rocket. If it’s not on the list, the beef alternative is equally tasty. Other antipasti include bruschetta with different toppings, melanzane alla Parmigiana, and simply moreish mussels in white wine with garlic and tomato.
Pastas are divided into ‘corta’ and ‘lunga’ (short and long) so you know which area to look in if you have a preference. Whichever you choose, they are served properly al dente with sauces so good you’ll want to lick the plate. Try the penne gamberetti – baby prawns in a creamy tomato-based sauce with garlic and chilli – or bucatini alla carbonara, which is rich, creamy and delicious. If you’re dining true Italian style, you also might want to order fish or meat, of which there is a fair selection, including classic dishes such as piccata di vitello (lemony veal escalopes).
A good combination of local and Italian varietals make up the broad wine list, and if you find the imported wines a little on the pricey side, you’ll easily find something to suit your pocket and taste closer to home.
You’ll receive professional attention. The waiters are all well-rehearsed in the specials of the day as well as anything that might not be available.
Simple interiors allow for a relaxed feel, and warm lighting creates an inviting atmosphere. There are no frills, but it’s sophisticated.
Many of the artworks that adorn the walls are for sale, so if you’re feeling flush after your meal, you can take home anything that catches your eye.
Unlike our Top 10 – which are selected by a panel of judges – the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Best Everyday Eateries are voted for by Eat Out readers. To find the winners, we calculated the highest average ratings on Eat Out from 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2015 – that’s a full year of reviews and star ratings. And Il Leone Mastrantonio in Green Point won the award for the best Italian eatery in Cape Town. Eat Out critic Raphaella Frame-Tolmie enjoyed a meal there to find out why Capetonians keep going back for more.
Italian food the way it’s meant to be – simple, fresh and tasty – is what you’ll find at this popular Green Point spot. Those in the know will aim straight for the carpaccio di pesca (fish carpaccio), especially when tuna is available. It’s tissue-paper-thin, drizzled with good olive oil and scattered with capers and rocket. If it’s not on the list, the beef alternative is equally tasty. Other antipasti include bruschetta with different toppings, melanzane alla Parmigiana, and simply moreish mussels in white wine with garlic and tomato.
Pastas are divided into “corta” and “lunga” (short and long. Whichever you choose, they are served properly al dente with sauces so good you’ll want to lick the plate. Try the penne gamberetti (baby prawns in a creamy tomato-based sauce with garlic and chilli) or bucatini alla carbonara, which is rich, creamy and delicious. If you’re dining true Italian style, you also might want to order fish or meat, of which there is a fair selection, including classic dishes such as piccata di vitello (lemony veal escalopes).
A good combination of local and Italian varietals make up the extensive wine list, and if you find the imported wines a little on the pricey side, you’ll easily find something to suit your pocket and taste closer to home.
You’ll receive professional attention. The waiters are all well rehearsed in the specials of the day as well as anything that might not be available.
The simple interior allows for a relaxed feel, and warm lighting creates an inviting atmosphere. There are no frills, but it’s sophisticated.
Many of the artworks that adorn the walls are for sale, so if you’re feeling flush after your meal you can take home anything that catches your eye.
While most Italian restaurants worth their salt can serve excellent Parma ham and melon, it takes someone really special to make the most delicious carpaccio di manza possible, so thinly sliced you can see through it, scattered with the most expensive parmesan shards, a few fresh mushroom slices, and rocket – fabulous. It doesn’t hurt that the bread from their ovens is so delicious you have to stop yourself eating too much of it. The many pastas are crowned with the best gnocchi in town – light and fluffy little clouds of delight – either with a rich ragu, arrabiata or four cheese sauce. It's just superb, and so far away from what one can buy in your local grocer, it will be like a whole new experience.
Fabulous risottos of porcini, seafood, and prawns lead you on to mains of flesh, fish, and fowl, including excellent saltimbocca with delicate veal slices topped with Parma ham and anointed with a rich sage and white wine sauce, and a classic grilled Florentine steak (700g wing rib) topped with herbs and garlic – a carnivore’s delight. The delicate and tangy pannacotta with berry sauce is just the thing to end a satisfying meal like this.
They offer a spectacular list featuring some great Cape marques, 16 Italian reds, Krug champagne, Veneta grappa and even Bisquit cognac.
Impeccable: you can’t see the wheels turning, but they are, very smoothly.
While the terrace is popular in summer, the main room and the one upstairs are elegantly casual, with plenty of light coming in from the sash windows, the tables set with crisp white napiery and comfortable wooden chairs, and art works, which are for sale, on the walls.
Take some time to walk through their small temperature-controlled cellar to select the wines to enjoy with your meal.
Proffessional service. Delicious food. Perfect setting and they gave us free booze...two thumbs up!
Great food and service but we left sooner than we would have liked because of truly awful loud mouthed guests at the next table which rather spoiled our evening.
One of the best Italian restaurants in Cape Town. Il Leone has grown on me. Better and better every time I go. And the friendliness and welcoming atmosphere is such a treat. They always make an effort to find a table - as we are very bad at making early reservations... Food is truly Italian, honest, delicious and comforting. Love the caprese variations, brinjal starter and all the pastas - especially the pork sausage one. Saltimbocca is excellent and the veal. Wine recommendations are really good if you can't make up your mind. Busy and fun mix of guests.
Artichoke salad was divine, as was the grilled kingklip and the seafood pasta. The vegetables didn't look all that fresh, otherwise food would have been given a 5 star. Our server was polite enough but unimpressive with regards to service. Will go there again!
No matter how good a restaurant is, one bad experience is one too bad. We had no problem ordering the usual sea-food pasta and I wanted the fillet special. We were told due to meat prices blah blah blah it was not on the menu. The waiter suggested the veal, which I accepted. I asked what was it served with, and was told vegetables and porcini mushrooms.
The veal was tough and not a match for the fillet, but that was my choice, a bad one at that, and not the issue.
When it came to the bill, I was charged R45,00 for the "extra porcini", which, firstly was not extra, and secondly was not explained as being an extra charge.
To pay R203.00 for veal, with porcini, is over the top.
Just got back from a fabulous meal at Il Leone. Great service, very yummy food, fun vibe. A very agreeable way to celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary! Delicious calamari and egg plant starters, and finger-licking good prawn pasta. Faultless and highly recommended.
Great food from starters to mains! Shared the fior de latte salad (special for the evening), calamari, and melazane di parmigiano - all were delicious! And my favourite -Penne Gamberetti - did not let me down!
My wife and I had a great evening at Il Leone on Friday. The food was awesome. My wife had ragu with gnocchi and I had the creamy tomato prawn pasta. The profiteroles are awesome - a must!
We went on a Friday night as a couple after reading the reviews. The building is a nice old house near the foundry and has a warm, simple, elegance. Unfortunately the food was a let down. There was no mussels or porcini which does take out a big part of the menu.
We ordered the calamari and carpaccio as starters. Both were pretty average with the calamari quite oily and the carpaccio super bland, especially the parmesan which was tastless.
For mains we both ordered the Ragu / Gnocchi, not a big portion but the Gnocchi itself was awesome. Light, fluffy and really good. Unfortunately this was let down badly with the ragu being so salty is was nearly inedible so as a result it couldn't be finished.
All in all expensive for what you get and what we got wasn't great - though could be if the chef revisited and tested the menu. Good wine list (great selection of pinot), wish they had Beirre Moretti. Service was friendly. R600 for 2 courses, wine and water.
My family and I went to dinner last night and although we arrived early, the restaurant soon filled up. We ordered the Pasta Gamberretti and 2 different risottos and it was all absolutely excellent. I couldn't finish my meal (as the portions are very generous) and felt no shame in requesting the remaining meal to go. I was not wasting such delicious food!
A fantastic dining experience.
A warm greeting from the manager when entering the restaurant, a waiter who knew his menu and was confident enough to make relevant recommendations without trying to sound clever.
The food was great value for money. We would have gladly paid double the bill for the experience we were provided with.
We visited the restaurant on 8 July 2011. I would like to thank the manager and entire service team for an unforgettable experience. Needless to say we will be back and bringing friends, family and whoever else we can find!
Just had an awesome meal at Il Leone! Calamari was the best I've had anywhere, ever. Great service, fabulous salad, excellent calamari, wonderful veg, superb vibe. I'll be back, for sure. Also great to have a really good restaurant open on a Sunday night in the inner city.