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It’s not hard to pick up the traces of rich history in this very traditional Italian restaurant, which has been open since 1990 and claims their successful run can be attributed to their “accurate, unique and true embodiment of the family restaurant”. Caraffa has remained an Italian dining hotspot after all these years thanks to hard work and the unbreakable family bond between the mother-daughter team, Michela and Franca, who have recently been joined by Enrico.
The food here has been rooted in tradition since its conception and the offerings are endless. For starters, try a deliciously light and crisp oven-baked focaccia topped with slivers of beef carpaccio and garlic oil for R95 and pair with the Da Vinci Misto, a simple but flavorful, salty salad with anchovies, capers and an egg at R72. A major hit with meat-free diners is the melanzane alla parmigiana, which is grilled brinjal slices layered with fresh tomato, mozzarella and parmesan cheese (R52) and the robust, marinated roasted black mushrooms topped with a house-made Napoletana sauce and mozzarella and baked in a hot oven until the cheese is a sizzling golden brown (R45). The veal saltimbocca is an enormous classic, and no self-respecting trattoria should be caught without a delicious take of its own. Caraffa’s saltimbocca is worth every kilometer it would’ve taken to get to the restaurant itself; true to the nature of simple but transformative Mediterranean cooking, the veal is unbelievably tender and topped with the traditional Parma ham and mozzarella cheese and finished off with a dash of white
wine to create the trademark sauce (R145) and served with fluffy roasted potatoes and their vegetables of the day, which are not the best (frozen veggies are used so it’s you’re a puritan, request a salad instead). There’s an extensive seafood category of seafood dishes, with a firm favourite amongst visitors being the salmone & pomodorini, a muted but satisfying dish of grilled salmon piled with lightly caramelized red onion and fresh cherry tomato with a side of fresh lemon (R145).All the pasta is prepared in-house, from scratch using ancient methods; the conchiglioni di Parma is a delicious preparation of conchigli pasta cooked perfectly and tossed in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce and topped with half a ripe avocado and slices of Parma ham, a pretty decent plate of food for R95. The pizza is also quite good, enjoy a pizza layered with grilled chicken strips, spicy chicken livers, onions and lashings of fresh chilli (R76). Depending on what type of outing you’re having, Caraffa can be slightly overpriced at times so if you’re on a budget, steer clear of the steaks and order from their extensive pizza and pasta menus. The dessert menu is as Italian as it gets, with age old favourites such as a gorgeous berry infused pavlova with whipped cream and macerated berries (R52) or the aerated, light-as-air, smooth-as-silk lemon mousse, a tart, citrusy end to a wonderful meal (R48).
Caraffa boasts a pretty impressive wine list, divided by their respective regions, with both local and Italian wine well represented in the various varietal categories. Reyneke Organic wines are available in an array of whites and reds for the conscious sipper at R50 per glass and dainty 200ml bottles of ice cold Prosecco DOC Special Cuvee NV at R100 each are a lovely touch enjoyed before starters. Or get the 750ml to share at R280. Creation viognier pairs beautifully with seafood and chicken and is R200 a bottle. There’s a small selection of wooded chardonnay if you’re that way inclined and dessert wines your waiter can inform you about at R35 a glass. Expect to find the regular selection of hot and cold beverages.
The service is sufficient; waiters attend to customers immediately even on busy nights. The family run establishment is strict about good service and the waiters are suitably trained on the menu as well as impeccable tableside manner. Due to its long history in the business of feeding people, Caraffa’s staff has created strong bonds with their many regulars who have come back time and again for the delicious food and warm, hospitable service.
Caraffa is definitely a family-style restaurant, with very little modern furnishings and fittings. They have maintained a robust, old town Italian feel with their unchanged albeit slightly dated aesthetic (you’re certainly not going for the architecture). The charm of Caraffa is certainly brought to life by the resident pianist who plays romantic music to entertain the guests throughout the evening. The décor is burgundy and earthy with touches of crisp white, with old brass instruments, renaissance-style murals and red brick pillars decorating the venue.
This moodily lit restaurant is a lovely place for a date and also great fun with a larger group, the key in dining where the options are endless is that everyone at the table orders something different and it’s all shared amongst guests. There’s a private dining area available and live entertainment can be anticipated.
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