The ‘Best’ section of the 2014 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards recognises eateries that are at the absolute top of their game, but don’t fit into the fine dining category of the Top 10. The winner of the Italian category is La Sosta, situated in the laid-back farming town of Swellendam.
The judge for the Best Italian Restaurant Award, Caro de Waal, says, “Here you get really lovely food coupled with the genuine good nature and passion of the owners. They have put their whole beings into this restaurant – the food has loved breathed into every plate. Absolutely delicious dishes include handmade ravioli, lamb fondant and creamy vanilla panna cotta served with a little scoop of coffee-flavoured frozen parfait.”
Owners Cristiana Ariotto and Giovanni Minori told us, “We are proud of our creative cuisine, research and commitment. Our focus is to offer traditional recipes in a new way – fresh and inspired by trends of the great Italian school.”
But Cristiana says every evening she gets her own ‘award’ from guests who recognise the passion, creativity and originality of the dishes and presentations.
She takes cues from her mentors, great names such as Bottura, Cracco, Heinz, Santini and Alajmo. “I never stop learning. Curiosity and challenges tease my imagination.”
Want to know more about what La Sosta offers? Here are the delicious details.
This is sophisticated Italian dining, about as far away from the usual pasta-and-sauce regime as you can get. Oh, they do serve pasta, but handled in such a different way you might be tricked into thinking it was the first time you were eating it. The kitchen is under the innovative hand of chef Cristiana, once upon a time a Milanese businesswoman, with a passion for cooking that has ensured that La Sosta has carved a niche for itself that will continue to grow.
Take, for instance, one of the starters called Sfero et Cubo: an egg yolk coated in a crumb mixture, popped into hot oil, served with a cube of mortadella and the richest chicken liver pâté you will eat in many a year. As you cut the yolk, it spreads across your plate, a golden taste sensation that needs bread to mop it up. Next, try the four birds: chicken, guinea fowl, turkey, and duck, shredded and encased in cabbage parcels, served with a rich reduction and a smidgen of mash. Pastas include buckwheat ravioli with tallegio cream and gnocchi with mushrooms and lemon oil. If you are hankering for something sweet, try the Tris Dolci, a taste of three desserts, including sublime tiramisu that has never heard of finger biscuits, a tiny, rich panna cotta, and an affogato with Cointreau over homemade vanilla ice cream – heaven. Dinner is offered as two or three courses and there are delicious vegetarian options.
They offer a serious list of some of the best from this area and others, with some Italian offerings like Sangiovese Rubicone and Prosecco Teresa Rizzi. Also on hand is their fabulous homemade limoncello, and Nonino Grappa from Friuli. Half bottles at reasonable prices is a great idea.
The front of house is taken care of by Cristiana’s husband, Giovanni, a one-time optician with an eye for the perfect moment.
This is a small space with uncluttered lines, light furniture and light wooden floors – clean and professional in the Milanese manner. No frills and fancies; here the food reigns supreme. In summer the doors are opened wide to let in garden ambience.
It’s absolutely essential to make a reservation as there are only 20 places for dinner. They arrange complimentary pick up and delivery service from local guest houses, so you can go to town, so to speak.