COMPILED BY Sarah and Jo Buitendach PHOTOS Supplied
A new generation of local restaurateurs are putting a contemporary and cool spin on the Italian eatery.
Old red-and-white checked tablecloths, clunky wooden tables and chairs, Italian flags hanging from the eaves… Fuggedaboutit! Eighties-style mom-and-pop Italian restaurants have a place in our hearts (as do pitchers of sangria filled with fruit) – but these two new joints are dishing up as much style as they are modern, Italian-inspired meals.
The vibe in short New York Italian meets New York diner, but in Jozi.
The concept is… Based on a US military slang word that is used to describe something fake. This playful, tongue-in-cheek brand pays homage to the “Italian” food developed in New York City and its surrounding boroughs. Imagine Mafia dons sitting around a table eating spaghetti and meatballs or chicken parmigiana, and you get the deal. Luckily, Fugazzi is less “crime family in dour 1950s” and more about getting together with actual family for a couple of laughs in a booth at a diner.
We love the interiors because… They combine loads of clever, on-trend elements with some real retro nods. Enrike de Villiers of Sketch Interior Architects has mixed terrazzo floors with charming red-leather-lined booths, wooden accents and glass bricks, and the result is engaging and vibrant. Add Leanie Nortjé of Fount Studio’s playful branding of menus, wall decor and packaging for maximum modern fun.
You’ve got to order… The hot olives as a snack and malfatti as a starter, followed by the Rigatoni Quattrogazzi or Cacio e Pepe pizza, and a top-notch Old Fashioned or three to go with it all.
Our favourite thing Their playlist is hard to beat – from Lauryn Hill to George Michael and Fleetwood Mac, it offers a continuous loop of old-school delights.
The vibe in short Cape Town does Italy, travel and sharing good food. The cool kids are loving the very Instagrammable interiors of the self-described Italian-ish restaurant and bar.
The concept is… By chef Shayne Schutte and creative director Michael Carter – the team who created perennial favourite Our Local. Club Kloof is all about the regionality of Italian food, and focuses on top-class fresh produce and unique flavour combinations. Shayne and Michael also worked with Motherdough – and their famed 103-year-old starter, Alfonsina – to create the perfect sourdough.
We love the interiors because… They’re inspired by the 1970s work of British interior designer David Hicks, and echo his brave use of colour, as well as his mixing of modern and antique furnishings. Shayne and Michael roped in paint guru Tiziana Giardini and friend and creative Ilana Swanepoel to help create the space. The result is a wonderful mix of pressed ceilings, vivid reds, neon lighting and mirrors, giving new life to a heritage building. The exteriors are all about the pops of yellow you’d spot in Italian seaside towns.
You’ve got to order… A traditional cocktail with a fun local twist, like the Hot and Dirty Martini, which includes a spicy chilli olive. Then order lots of small plates to share, and taste a bit of everything. Try the OTT mac and cheese arancini and the traditional beef meatballs with pomodoro sauce – and don’t forget a crispy pizzetta topped with shelled baby prawns and chilli. Delizioso!
Our favourite thing Whether you’re looking for a cosy dinner amid the scarlet hues of the main restaurant or a quick Aperol Spritz in the hidden courtyard, this joint has it all. Just don’t forget to take a selfie!