Review: Everybody’s talking about Old Town Italy, Durban’s new gourmet landmark

It is deeply rewarding to watch people arrive at Old Town for the first time. As they step through the doors, conversation evaporates and they momentarily pause to take in the magnitude of this restaurant and deli. A smile slowly starts to spread and, at that point, it’s obvious that Renzo Scribante (the man behind the Remo’s chain) has created a Durban gourmet landmark.


They have not reinvented the wheel. And, quite honestly, what would be point of that? Old Town Italy has gone back to time-honoured traditions and cuisine. No modern interpretations, just classic Italian food made as it should be. Some of the menu items – free-range rotisserie chicken, meatballs braised with lentils, and exemplary focaccia – are also sold through the deli area, so a foraging expedition may help the uninitiated decide what to order.

Old Town Italy. Photo courtesy of BlondeZulu photography.

Old Town Italy. Photo courtesy of BlondeZulu photography.

Baptise your palate with an antipasti platter that can be made up from extensive range of cured meats and imported cheeses, or delve right into fairly simple pasta options with the likes of pappardelle bolognese, lasagne and tagliatelle with creamy mushroom sauce and truffle oil. Other lunchtime offerings segue from deep-fried baby calamari with zucchini and mushrooms with chilli tomato sauce to burgers on homemade buns.

Old Town Italy. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Old Town Italy. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Breakfasts are also an occasion here. An alluring array of cornetti beckons, but resisting hot dishes is futile… The rich and flavourful Il Bosco Rosso sees your choice of bread topped with streaky bacon, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and seasoned avo. Another standout is the Milanese, which features artisan bread topped with salami Milano, Napoletana sauce, fresh basil, poached eggs and shavings of grana padano. The rustic and robust flavours work well together, although the sauce was disappointing in that it was more like a purée and the basil that would have countered with a lovely freshness didn’t make it on to the plate. The delicious platter with parma ham, avo, marinated olives, roasted peppers, fontal cheese, sundried tomato pesto and bread is perfect for leisurely grazing. Otherwise, feel deliciously childlike and wander over to the gelato station to order a waffle and ice cream for breakfast.


Once again, it’s all about authenticity. Unsurprisingly, there is a selection of good coffees (cappuccinos are sometimes a little cold but quickly replaced) and speciality teas; milkshakes blended from imported Fabri artisan ice cream; freshly extracted juices made to order; and imported soft drinks that are naturally flavoured and free of artificial colourants and preservatives. Craft beers, wines and bubblies are all are exclusively Italian.

Old Town Italy. Photo courtesy of BlondeZulu Photography.

Old Town Italy. Photo courtesy of BlondeZulu Photography.


The staff complement is impressive in terms of quantity and quality. The sizeable floor space has a suitably large and effective team, with all members strikingly turned out in custom-made uniforms including T-shirts emblazoned with “Make bread, not war”. Waiters are dedicated to tables, but there’s a friendly overlap, which means that there’s always a pleasant smile and willing hand. The staff are well versed on the intricacies of the menu and management is hands on, including owner Renzo, who can be spotted happily slicing cured meat in the butchery.


Forget Tuscan office parks and other cringeworthy interpretations of Italian décor and design. Old Town Italy is a cleverly curated space that captures the essence of that country. This is about attention to detail to the extreme – from the bakery with its overflowing bread baskets to beautiful merchandise and wood-fired ovens. Seating is divided into four distinct areas: tables cushioned between the bakery, salumeria, butchery and cheese counter (just try to walk away empty handed!); counter seating around the bar area; an inside dining area with sun-drenched tables; and outside tables reminiscent of pavement dining in Europe.

Old Town Italy. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Old Town Italy. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.


No reservations are taken, so be prepared to wait for a table. Take your shopping list with you as you can stock up on just about anything your foodie heart desires.

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

Have you failed to resist the charms of Old Town Italy yet? Let us know what you thought – and what cheese you bought – by writing a review.

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