Cape Town’s restaurant scene is stacked with foodie options that are bound to impress. There are heaps of restaurants that do pasta and even more that do pizzas, but there is something to be said for the select few that are successful in delivering an authentic Italian experience.
Italian dishes were a constant in my household growing up, despite my family’s Hungarian-South African roots, writes Cape town Etc’s, James Redman. But my true passion for Italian cuisine came from my time spent in various cities and towns in Italy between 2015 and 2017. Since then, I have been on a quest to find Cape Town’s most authentic Italian Restaurant.
My findings are not reserved for the flavor and presentation of the food alone, but for the whole dining experience. From the interior design and atmosphere to the fresh bread and condiments provided. The experience must live and breathe Italy (but in Cape Town).
It has been tough to distill this list of authentic Italian experiences in Cape Town, and there are some that I am yet to have the pleasure of attending, but so far, here are my top three…
1. Massimo’s, Hout Bay
Massimo’s, crowned the best pizzeria in Africa, is an absolute must! Massimo comes from a small family farm in Piemonte in Northern Italy, where all the food they ate was either grown or raised on the farm.
The interior of the restaurant makes me nostalgic, with bare brick walls and old photographs of the Piemonte family and farm hanging proudly. There is also a relaxed outdoor setting with a play area for kids because there is nothing more authentic than family.
Massimo’s thin-based crispy pizzas are truly something special, in fact, they taste like more! The first time I visited Massimo’s I had to order a second because the first one was just too good. My favorites include the Dell’orto (tomato, gorgonzola, roast butternut, roast garlic, baby spinach, red onion) and the Corleone (tomato, mozzarella, brie, bacon, sun-dried tomato pesto).
Next up is Bacini’s Pizzeria and Deli on Kloof Street. I absolutely love eating here and can’t help but feel a deep sense of comfort every time I walk inside. The interior feels like a deli, well, because it is one; olive oils, breadsticks, and other Italian ingredients line the shelves of the restaurant walls.
The exterior is raised off the street and enclosed with glass overlooking the more peaceful end of Kloof Street. Bacini’s is owned by Raimando Napoli, a man who grew up tossing pizzas. It’s no wonder that they (the pizzas and owners) are right up there with the best.
Bacini’s is my favorite authentic Italian restaurant to visit for pasta, particularly the mascarpone and roast tomato. I can’t get enough!
3. Mama Roma, Newlands
Then there is Mama Roma. This Newlands-based restaurant is the pinnacle of my experiences of Italian authenticity in Cape Town. The restaurant is run by the Gorrini family who was approached by Professor Christian Barnard (yes, the Christian Barnard) in 1988 to take over his restaurant which was then called La Vita.
Chef Romano Gorrini has been a professional chef since the age of 16, and by the time he was 20 years old, was the Head Chef at La Perla east in Rondebosch.
The front of a house falls under the expertise of Christina Gorrini and their daughter Marisa. Day in and day out the Gorrini strives to uphold the name of Mamma Roma and its reputation for superb Italian dining.
The restaurant is double-booked almost every night of the week and it’s really no surprise why. Mamma Roma does not offer pizzas but focuses all her attention on delivering nothing but the most authentic Italian seafood, pasta, grills, and veal dishes.
Rissotto, melanzane, cannelloni, ravioli, lasagne, tripe, ossobuco and more, all served at the highest quality. The walls and ceilings of this intimate establishment are decorated with frescos, the tables are candle-lit, and soft Italian music lingers in the background while you indulge in the most authentic Italian experience Cape Town has to offer.
As I said, this is a quest. And so, an Italian-flavoured bucket list seems appropriate. I’ve been told that I have to visit Scarpetta in Woodstock and Asta Italian in Stellenbosch. Stay tuned because I’m hungry for more…