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.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.