This hidden gem tucked away in Shepherd Market on Jan Smuts Avenue has recently opened its doors. Moda’ Ristorante is the brainchild of Diego Montresor and Omar Scarabello. Chef Omar’s core focus is on bringing the Johannesburg public a taste of authentic Italian from his motherland. Diego is not new to this game: His journey in the industry began as a young man in Verona, Italy, continued across the European continent, and has brought him to his new home in Joburg, where he’s finally set down his roots.
The key here is honest Italian fare. Expect wholesome food prepared by Italian chef Omar Scarabello – who has an authentic accent to match. His passion for traditional flavours and methods shines through in the food.
Generous portions of antipasti are the perfect way to start the meal. Share the fior di latte mozzarella, with fresh tomatoes, black olives and basil. Don’t let the simplicity of this dish fool you: The perfectly ripe and juicy tomatoes pair beautifully with the fresh cheese. The other options of deep-fried calamari and baby marrow are golden morsels of delight.
Pizzas are prepared in a wood-fired oven to give them thin and crispy bases with a perfect balance of toppings. Expect traditional combinations like salsiccia e peperoni, mozzarella, ricotta and spinach or the quattro formaggi, with top-quality cheeses being used.
The homemade ravioli bursting with veal and smothered in a sage butter sauce is testament to the love and dedication put into the food. An offering of three risottos with the porcini, recommend by our waiter, did not fail to impress. The risotto takes a little time – it’s made to order to allow for the creamy goodness to be coaxed out of the rice – and, with buttery, earthy porcinis, it caused the table to go silent as we all savoured the moment of our first bite.
The polenta gnocchi is served in a classic gorgonzola-and-walnut sauce, which sounds like an interesting combination and is definitely on the list for our next visit. Finish off the meal with a classic tiramisu or the simple yet surprising dark-chocolate mousse scoop with crunchy amaretti.
There’s a range of soft drinks, juices and excellent coffee. Moda is currently in the process of acquiring its liquor licence. Until then you’re welcome to bring your own wine.
Waiters move efficiently around the compact space, and both Diago and the staff ensure that your experience is seamless.
A converted shed houses the cosy restaurant among small shops in Shepherd Market. It’s a truly warm and comforting experience – almost like having dinner at Diago’s dining room table. Although you might expect it to be a venue more suited to summer, the space is well heated in the heart of winter and exudes a warm, homely feel. Moda offers excellent value for a sneaky midweek dinner or romantic evening out.
All dishes are available as takeaway options, with home delivery coming in the near future.