A series of blackboards showcase a range of classic pizzas and characterful pasta dishes. To start, tuck into a seasonal salad such as the artichoke, avocado and nut salad topped with mozzarella, or a brinjal tower.
Available pasta includes linguine, tagliatelle, penne and gnocchi. A simple napolitana consisting of tomato and organum is flavourful and aromatic. Then there’s the puttanesca, which takes it a step further by adding anchovies, capers and olives to the napolitana. Pizza is the heart of the menu – Tracy’s special consists of delicious toppings with added extras. The base consists of peppers, mushrooms, olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, chili and other toppings, with the option to add mince, bacon or other meats to this vegetarian pizza. Devour a bacon, avocado and pizza with crumbled feta. The thin base is delicate and fine, as all good pizza bases should be. Slightly crispier bacon would make this the finest pizza in Johannesburg.
For dessert, savour Italian kisses or sorbet.
The wine list is ample and includes wine by the glass and bottle. Neil Ellis Shiraz is among the selection of red wines available and Spier Creative Block Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent accompaniment to pizza. Soda cans are also available and the creamy cappuccino is a delight.
The service is possibly what makes Trabella feel like a neighbourhood diner. Locals greet the waitrons with familiarity, and Tracy is on hand to welcome diners in a colourful Hawaiian shirt.
Trabella’s cool décor consists of school-like chairs, black paint from floor to ceiling, blackboards on the walls and candles on the table. The intimate restaurant invites you to feast for hours, while its casual and contemporary style envelopes you.
Magnificent pizza in an unpretentious and understated bastion of cool.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
You must order the eggplant parmigiana with brinjals, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella that will make any lactose-intolerant diner cry with cheesy envy. The dish is incredibly rich, enough so that a group of six can order bread, share the portion and still feel satisfied. Another starter goodie is the carpaccio, which a guest at the table got so involved with that he forgot to pass it around. The sliver I managed to steal was a delicate blast of perfection.
If you’re gluten intolerant there are gluten-free bases, all elegantly thin crust. Even the foccacia with garlic is a treat and the smack of freshness from the smoked salmon salad complemented with capers, onion and avocado keeps anyone watching their waists happy. They could hold back on the iceberg lettuce, though.
Fifteen pastas – including leeks, gorgonzola and butternut, or pancetta and peas in a creamy parmesan sauce – and a choice of even more pizzas with toppings make for an exciting variety.
Round off your courses with a peanut butter cheesecake.
The wine isn’t cheap, but medium-bodied quaffs like the Neil Ellis red even on a balmy evening are perfect for Italian ingredients like tomatoes, to cut the cream and enhance meatier flavours.
The service isn’t slow but don’t expect waitrons to fuss about you. However, the slowness of the place adds to the charm and makes you eat as if you’re away from the pressures of city life and timekeeping. Just be patient and enjoy your food and company.
They won’t win awards for the décor but you’ll certainly remember the food, which is the important part. We bumped into many familiar faces, many of whom have been dining for years and come for their favourite repeat pleaser. Inviting and casual.
The magic of the place is that it consistently delivers dishes any Italian mama would be proud of. And that there’s always at least one regular you can ask for recommendations.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their own meals. Read our full editorial policy here.