We are delighted to begin announcing the 20 nominees for this year’s Boschendal Style Award, an accolade presented annually to the most stylish restaurant in South Africa. Nominees will be featured every week until the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards ceremony in November, when the ultimate winner will be announced.
The first contender is not your average Durban deli. Old Town Italy captures the essence of a romantic old-world market and offers diners a little piece of Italy. Here’s why this restaurant deserves its nomination for the 2015 Boschendal Style Award.
The man behind the Remo’s brand, Renzo Scribante, visualised a restaurant and deli reminiscent of an old-town neighbourhood grocery store or market. He wanted to create a portal back to a more romantic time, when life was lived at a slower pace.
The moment you walk through the doors, a charming atmosphere welcomes you with aromas of baked bread and coffee. The cement ceilings, exposed steel and copper pipes, and industrial light fittings of the 600-square-metre space lend a rustic charm, while blue-and-white Mediterranean tiles give a softer touch.
The walls of the carefully curated space are adorned with Italian wines, tinned tomatoes and vintage black-and-white photographs. Every nook feels authentically Italian, whether you’re perched at the brass and marbled-topped bar watching the barista brew your coffee, sitting alongside the over-flowing baskets of ciabatta, or standing at the gleaming glass meat counter.
The eatery houses a butchery, bakery, juice bar, vintage ice-cream-coloured gelato counter, delicatessen and café. Renzo and his team were all instrumental in the design and interiors, from the beautiful ceramic subway tiles on the walls right down to the last piece of beautifully weathered antique furniture.
Materials and finishes were found in antique stores in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and nearly everything used in the décor and design is locally sourced. The exception is some equipment, such as the Spanish oven and the French Maison Gatti chairs that dot the sidewalk. The clock is connected to GPS to give the exact time across the globe, in Italy.
Renzo explains, “We took our passion and put it all into one space. We designed our offices upstairs and our warehouse in the back, so this has not only become our working space, but also our new home.”
The food at Old Town Italy is humble Italian fare; the charcuterie and baked goods are hard to resist. Their signature dish is risotto al funghi selvatici: a luxurious bite of Northern Italy featuring arborio rice, onions, white wine, wild mushrooms and grana padano cheese. For a sweet ending, diners are tempted by Remo’s famous vanilla-custard cronuts.