Remo’s Maximilliano in Waterfall: A well-tested formula that works

The Scribante family, even though they’ve been in South Africa for a few generations, have always involved themselves in the typically Italian pursuits of racing cars (think Scribante race tracks), engineering and food, especially Italian baking.

Remo’s Maximilliano is even more stylishly racy than the other two branches in Mount Edgecombe and Umhlanga. (And there is to be another in Cape Town.) It’s a chain of sorts, but brothers Renzo and Franco make a well-tested and showy formula work. The restaurants are named after a sadly missed brother, Remo Scribante.

The food

This is not rustic fare, even though the breads are the real artisanal deal and there’s a special list of Italian craft beers and home-pressed juices like orange, carrot and basil or healthy veggies. The menu doesn’t really follow the classic antipasti-pasta-mains formula (we South Africans don’t eat that way), and includes just as many Italian dishes as not. The selection is based on what locals like, with items such as hake fillet appearing alongside chicken assaggi, a very successful composition of complementary tastes. With wood-fired bread ovens on the level above the dining area, this is a good place to order al forno (oven-baked) dishes, such as the lasagne – one of the best I’ve tasted.

Good-looking and delicious salmon fishcakes come with wilted spinach and lentils, while the Bagnette alla Marne was a less successful starter, composed of deli ingredients, pickled red pepper, not-very-anchovy oil and brittle toast. The unusual brie, bacon and cranberry jam pizza has a wafer-thin but not very crisp base and the Filleto Milano with roasted veg is more like a tenderised schnitzel.

The counter at Remo's Maximilliano

The counter at Remo’s Maximilliano

These days nearly every restaurant feels obliged to serve a panna cotta to end off the meal, but Remo’s serves an unusual chamomile version. Otherwise, the menu offers popular dessert options like crème brûlée, cheesecake and choc brownies.

Breakfasts are big attractions at Remo’s restaurants and the bakes are always a good choice, as well as items like minted eggs Hollandaise and Franco’s special of mince on ciabatta, with egg if desired.

The adjoining deli also beckons with its cured meats, selection of unusual cheeses, crusty breads and Italian pickled things, as well as Bastianich wines, Lurisia beverages and Baladin beers, and trendily packaged gift-worthy goods.

The drinks

There’s a short but well-chosen list of local bottles and imported Italian wines, courtesy of their suppliers, Bastianich. Diners can also select from eight Italian craft beers (three of them flavoured). A wine cellar is being completed on a level above the glam restaurant section.

The service

Waiters are quick on their feet, playful and well trained.

The ambience

Like a super-stylish Bugatti, the décor is kind of retro, with touches of black and white, glinting glass and metal. Huge posters cover the double-volume walls, featuring old Italian racing cars, the family and horses, as a nod to this location in the new polo-inspired Waterfall development.

The interior at Remo's Maximilliano

The interior at Remo’s Maximilliano

Instead of a Bugatti, a cheeky Vespa is displayed up on the second level above the glittering bar, with the bakery and prep-kitchen just visible behind it. The generous fireplace is a treat in winter and summer will be a breeze as the airy space has huge glass doorways to the outside areas of the restaurant.

The verdict

Remo’s Café Maximilliano is a bustling, efficient option that’s more revved-up and pricy than other Italian family joints.

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