The menus, chalked onto blackboards, are explained to you in mouth-watering detail. Start things off with Tuscan cigars or the famed burrata el parma. The burrata is luxuriously creamy and arrives on a bed of rocket with sun-dried and fresh tomatoes, olives, and wafer-thin parma ham – it's all so delicious, you’ll be fighting over the last bite. A side of soft bread acts as the perfect vessel.
For mains, there are hearty dishes like rich meatballs or creamy gnocchi gorgonzola, but it’s the fresh, homemade pasta we’re here for. The signature ‘4 Ps’ pasta comes with silky pappardelle noodles in a sauce of porcini mushrooms, pancetta, parmesan cheese and a rich tomato base made with veal mince. It’s simply sublime, and packs a punch of robust Italian flavours. Vegetarians are also taken care of, with the kitchen happily making changes to this dish by replacing the meat with pickled zucchini and olives. Alternatively, go for the pillowy, umami-rich spinach-and-ricotta ravioli. The simple-sounding dish is anything but: The combination of minced truffles and olive oil creates a magically creamy sauce that leaves you wanting to lick the pan.
On the desserts front, the menu might feature classic tiramisu or cassata, but it’s the cannoli that deserves a special mention. The freshly made tunnel pastries are stuffed with a milk tart-like ricotta filling, which is paired magnificently with a cup of Illy coffee. If you want something a little smaller, the ice cream-stuffed cornetti are moreish morsels. The bites are described to us as “the best part of a Cornetto” (the little chocolate-coated tip of the cone), and serve as a perfect end to the meal.
The concise blackboard wine list features some good pasta-pairing options, like local Nativo White Blend or Morgenster Merlot. Italian varietals also make an appearance, with rustic Chianti and dry Prosecco. Grappa, limoncello and Amaretto are also available.
The service here is friendly and faultless. The tiny team keeps things running smoothly in a warm and accommodating manner.
The minute space is cosy and comfortable with timber walls, blackboard menus and warm lighting. There’s also a small outside area, which is popular for those lazy lunches or early summer suppers.
There’s a lovely central fireplace for chilly evenings.
Osteria Tarantino is the newest addition to a variety of eateries in De Waterkant, Cape Town. The quaint, authentic Italian restaurant is run by chef and owner Enrico, who, along with his son, gives Sandiso Ngubane and his dining companion a warm welcome as they sit down to discover plenty they didn’t know about seemingly simple Italian dishes.
The unpretentious interior is a prelude to the simplicity of Enrico’s dishes. Instead of menus, he takes us through the starter menu himself before we settle on the hugely satisfying buratta el parma, and the rolle veg for my vegetarian date. The burrata, a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream, paired with the parma ham was a perfect combination in both texture and taste. Another option would have been a sheet of mozzarella filled with parma ham, sundried tomatoes and rocket.
Our mains are sensational ravioli gorgonzola and al dente linguine and meatballs. I’m a huge fan of meatballs, and was excited to try these ones, made by an Italian who describes his food as “simple, Italian-mama food”. Overall, our mains are the perfect, traditional Italian comfort food we seek.
For dessert we have the sensational cassatta, a pound cake of vanilla ice-cream with nuts, chocolate and a crust layer, delivering a sweet and very delicious ending to an evening of authentic Italian dining.
You are welcome to bring your own bottle of wine at a small corkage fee, but you can also order the likes of prosecco, some South African and Italian wines from small farms, beers and classic liqueurs such as limoncello.
Osteria Tarantino is family run. Both Enrico and his son are very attentive and friendly. It feels as if we we’re paying a visit to their home, rather than a restaurant.
This is a very comfortable, welcoming setting. The restaurant has a simple interior: Crate timber lines the walls, along with seats made of the same materials, plus cushions.