From melt-in-the-mouth melanzane to tantalising tiramisu and perfectly prepared pizza and pasta, Italian cuisine is so darn delicious, and hard to beat in terms of the satisfaction quotient. Whether you’re after an old-school trattoria, a modern small-plates eatery or a comfortable café, Cape Town’s best Italian restaurants offer something for every occasion. Buon appetito!
What’s your favourite Italian restaurant? Have you dined at any of our picks? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Fresh, seasonal produce is the order of the day at this busy restaurant in Claremont, where hearty aromas of bold Italian flavours waft into the dining area from the open-plan kitchen. The service at this casual, glass-fronted restaurant isfriendly and knowledgeable.
The food Passionate owner David Haupt is committed to using organic herbs and vegetables, pasture-reared beef, sustainable fish and handmade pasta (including wheat and gluten-free) in all the tasty dishes. For starters, we recommend the zuppa ai frutti di mare (a layered homemade seafood broth with mussels, prawns, line fish and calamari, served with garlic bruschetta). For mains, meat-eaters will love the tagliata di manzo (sliced herb-rubbed 250g rib-eye with roasted Roma tomatoes and broccoli); vegetarians will be in their element with the tagliolini ai funghi e tartufo (fresh thin pasta tossed with wild mushrooms, fresh rocket and truffle oil, topped with Parmesan); while pescatarians can enjoy the pesce al forno con salsa verde(grilled fresh line fish served with stewed lentils, broccoli, marinated diced tomato and salsa verde).
Opening times Tuesday – Friday & Sunday, 12pm – 3pm
Monday – Saturday, 6pm – 10pm
Contact 021 671 1763
Where to find it Library Square, Claremont (opposite the Kingsburg Hospital), Cape Town
Reviewer Jackie Lange
This three-in-one restaurant – Locanda at street level, Seta in the middle, and Pierino Penati on the top floor – is the lifelong realisation of owners Luciano Previtera and Michele Mirotto.
Pierino Penati, headed by third-generation Michelin-starred chef, Theo Penati, serves immaculately prepared authentic meals that are full of flavour. One floor down, on the first level is Seta, a sophisticated fusion-cocktail lounge. Here, the Italian sensibilities of aperitivo entertaining are the order of the day. And, if you’d prefer something more laidback, pop downstairs to Locanda for a sensational feast (and then reprise your table back at Seta for an after-dinner cognac or espresso).
Opening times Tuesday – Saturday, 4pm –10pm (kitchen)
Contact 021 418 2740, email@example.com
Where to find it 47 Bree Street, Cape Town
Cucina Labia at Casa Labia
More than just a restaurant, Cucina Labia in the historic Casa Labia on Muizenberg’s Main Road is a destination and experience rolled into one. Built in the 1920s by Count and Countess Natale Labia, the Gatsby-style interiors are adorned with artworks by Irma Stern, Gerard Sekoto, Francois Boucher and others, with drapes on the windows and hanging chandeliers creating a distinctly Venetian flavour. Managed by Dish Food & Social, the kitchen is headed by chef Monché Muller whose fresh, seasonal and utterly delectable dishes will have you planning your next visit after your first bite.
Good to know Weekend lunchtime diners can enjoy music by pianist Jean Paul Grimaldi-Lasserre.
Opening times Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday, 9am – 4pm
Friday, 6pm – 10pm
Contact 021 788 6062, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it 192 Main Road, Muizenberg
95 Keerom Street
Giorgio Nava’s first venture in the heart of Cape Town’s legal district is still a firm favourite. He has since spread his Milanese flair to 95 at Parks (formerly Carne) and 95 at Morgenster in Somerset West.
The food is consistently excellent, and among the best meat to be found anywhere in Cape Town. Start with la tartare (hand-chopped raw prime fillet dressed with olive oil, onion, egg, capers and parsley). If raw beef is not your thing, try the ravioli (butternut or spinach, with ricotta, sage butter and Parmesan) or one of the excellent traditional pastas. For a special occasion, splash out on la aragosta alla griglia (two 400g crayfish, grilled to perfection with olive oil and lemon).The delicious white-and-dark chocolate fondant for dessert is not to be missed. And the wine list is well selected, too. The service, as you’d expect from one of the city’s most consistent restaurants, is friendly and professional
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 6.30pm – 10pm
Contact 021 422 0765
Where to find it 95 Keerom Street, Cape Town
Reviewer Jackie Lange
When South African-born Italian chef Luca Di Pasquale, who owns True Italic on Bree Street, declares that Meloncino serves the best pizza in Cape Town, you take his word for it! Which is exactly what we did, one icy winter’s night in May.
Going in, I had my reservations (pun intended), not least because Meloncino is in a tourist-trodden mall, but also because it’s part of a chain of homespun eateries, and the dark and slightly dated interiors aren’t immediately welcoming. But all that soon faded as we took our seats at a harbourside table, with magical nighttime views of the marina, Cape Wheel and twinkling city beyond.
Then came the food – fresh, vibrant, authentic Italian flavours, straight out of nonna’s kitchen. I ordered the Pesce Fresco Alla Mediterraneo – Sicilian-style grilled fish, topped with a salad of fresh diced tomato, celery, olives, capers, rocket and freshly squeezed lemon juice – which was irreducibly perfect. My partner ordered the Roman-style Tartufo e Prosciutto pizza – and, like Luca, declared it to be the best pizza in Cape Town! In fact, he’s not stopped talking about it since.
To add to the authenticity of the experience, septuagenarian maître d’ Alberto di Grisostomo feels like a character straight out of the Godfather trilogy. Arms folded, he leans against the bar counter, in his suit and tie, peering out of his thick-rimmed glasses, ensuring things are running smoothly. If you’re lucky, he’ll come over to your table and reagle you with stories of his travels in Rome and New York.
Opening times Daily, 11am – 11pm
Contact 021 419 5558
Where to find it 259, Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
Reviewer Nikki Benatar
An intimate ristorante where chef-owner Kikko di Mar and his charming wife Dessy (front of house, baker and pasta-maker) are living their dream of owning an authentic Italian restaurant in the leafy southern suburbs of Cape Town. This relative newcomer to the local restaurant scene punches above its weight with its delicious authentic Roman cuisine. Light and airy with sand-blasted windows, the interior is simple and elegant. Service is friendly and attentive, but you may have to linger over a glass of wine from the smallish but interesting wine list if the restaurant is full.
The food The menu is small, as dishes are chosen according to the best local and imported produce available. All the food is superb, but the stand-out course was the tender, melt-in-the-mouth free-range lamb chops, marinated overnight in herbs, served perfectly pink and accompanied by honey-glazed baby vegetables and potatoes. The tiramisu – the only dessert prepared by Kikko (Dessy makes all the baked and prepared desserts) – comes highly recommended.
Good to know In Italy a typical meal consists of four courses – antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci – so portions here are appropriate for this style of dining. Don’t expect enormous plates of food.
Opening times Tuesday – Saturday, 6.30pm – 10pm
Wednesday – Friday, 12.30pm – 2pm
Contact 076 037 7477, email@example.com
Where to find it 1 Myrtle Roads, Kenilworth, Cape Town
Reviewer Jackie Lange
This neighbourhood gem was taken over by Matteo Santini and Maurizio Calo in June 2017, new owners who’ve brought their Italian heritage to Cape Town with recipes learnt and passed down from their nonnas.
On the night we dined here, we enjoyed risotto arancini with garlic aioli for starters; lamb and crème fraîche pizza; and mushroom-and-artichoke ravioli with four-cheese sauce for mains; and a geranium crème brûlée and tiramisu for dessert. Every single bite was completely and utterly delicious.
Good to know the portions are generous, so come hungry. And dress warmly, as the chilly night air seeps through the door.
Opening times Tuesday – Sunday, 12pm – 10pm
Contact 063 710 4742, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it 2 Deer Park drive, Vredehoek, Cape Town
Reviewer Alicia Chamaillé
When we first caught wind that an authentic Italian-owned eatery had opened in Woodstock in May 2018, we scrambled to find out more. The already popular restaurant serves delicious pizzas (possibly the best in Cape Town, we’re told) and saucy pastas in an intimate setting. And while we haven’t had a bite yet – as they’re currently closed for winter (until 20 August 2018) – we know it’ll be worth the wait.
Good to know The restaurant is closed until 20 August 2018
Opening times Tuesday – Sunday, 10.30am – 10.30pm
Contact 021 447 3359
Where to find it 85 Roodebloem Road, Woodstock, Cape Town
A cool-and-cosy café where heritage and passion meet in the most splendid of ways. Owner Giulio Loreggian grew up watching his mother and nonna lovingly bring a large family together with their cooking. After training as a chef and working in a café under his food idol, Jamie Oliver, Giulio returned to Cape Town to open his own café in the city.
The range of light, modern-Italian fare – from crunchy salads and comforting pastas to tasty desserts and now pizzas, too – has ensured a loyal clientele among office workers in the area.
Good to know The restaurant is now open on Thursday and Friday evenings for pizza and live jazz sessions.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 7am – 3pm
Thursday & Friday, 5pm – 10pm
Saturday, 8am – 12.30pm
Contact 021 418 6304, email@example.com
Where to find it 16 Loop Street, Cape Town
Pane e Vino Food & Wine Bar
Image credit: Lisa Wallace
A stone fireplace and brick walls create a homely vibe in this cosy taverna in Stellenbosch that doubles as a tasting room for the Dalla Cia wines and grappa made nearby. The affable owners are the Dalla Cias: winemaker Giorgio (of Meerlust fame), his son George who makes the grappa, and George’s talented wife, Elena, who prepares the delicious Italian fare. On hot days you can sit outside under cover as you would in a roadside trattoria in Italy…
The food is simple, traditional and utterly delicious, made from fresh, organic ingredients. Visit on Saturday over lunch when the local Italian community are out in full force for a coffee and a chat – but do remember to book, as it’s very popular.
On the day we visited, the blackboard menu, which changes daily, offered pappardelle all’aragosta (crayfish pasta), a choice of antipasti including prosciutto e melone and bresaola con rucola. Under the primi section was tortelli au ragu (ravioli with meat sauce), and for secondi, there was a choice between the melanzane alla Parmigiana, arrosto di manzo (roast beef), and arista di maiale (pork belly with roast potatoes).
Opening times Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm
Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Contact 021 883 8312, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Behind Oude Libertas, 7 Distillery Road, Stellenbosch
Reviewer Jackie Lange
The Cousins Trattoria
Three Italian cousins – Simone, Luca and Andrea – decided that the one thing their adopted hometown was missing was a real Italian restaurant. So they opened one. The Cousins Italian Trattoria is a charming and cosy slice of Romagna transplanted in Cape Town.
The food is simple, fresh, authentic. Start your meal with a cocktail (an Aperol Spritz or Negroni if you want to get in the spirit) and some freshly made regional Gnocco Frito bread, then dive into a meal of Italian pleasures. The pasta is made fresh each morning – the recipes come straight from nonna, so don’t ask for any changes! You won’t need to, though, because every plate is a simple, stunning feast of flavours. The carpaccio is the best I’ve had in Cape Town. The speciality is The Cousins pasta: tagliolini with cream, mushroom and thyme, served in a giant Grana Padano cheese wheel. Wow.
Save a little space for a vodka-infused sorbet or an excellent affogato, and end your meal off with a limoncello if you need some help digesting…
Ask for a booth and get comfortable – the waitrons are there when you need them, not when you don’t, and Luca is around to ensure everyone is happy – and to tell stories of his native homeland.
You must come hungry! The portions are generous and you’ll want to taste everything.
Contact 083 273 9604, email@example.com
Where to find it The Cousins, 3b Barrack Street, Cape Town
Reviewer Bridget McNulty
This traditional ristorante Italiano in the heart of Pinelands has maintained a fine reputation for serving delicious, authentic Italian food in congenial surroundings. Although the 1970s decor appears dated, it is this comfortable and familiar environment that is so charming. The efficient waiters are warm and friendly and, if you’re a regular, chef-owner Ezio will come over and explain the specialities of the day.
Co-owners Franco and Ezio whip up traditional Italian dishes and, although the menu is extensive, they are both more than happy to tailor-make a dish to suit discerning palates. Start with a selection of antipasti, followed by the zuppa di pesce (seafood soup) or the Tagliata Fiorentina (sliced grilled fillet dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a herb sauce), and end with the decadent tiramisu – if you have room. The excellent wine list includes local, as well as a good Italian wines.
Good to know Booking is essential, especially if you want to sit in the room at the far end of the restaurant away from the buzz.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 6pm – 10pm
Monday – Friday, 12pm – 2pm
Contact 021 531 1489
Where to find it Number 8, Central Building, 9 Central Square, Pinelands
Reviewer Jackie Lange
The familiar feeling of walking into a genuine family-run Italian restaurant is hard to beat, and Mario’s has that in spades, along with friendly service and tasty dishes straight out of mamma’s kitchen. If you’re a regular here, there’s a good chance your grandparents were, too.
Fun fact The dining area was once decorated with three decades worth of graffiti, courtesy of patrons who would scrawl personal messages on the walls. Unfortunately, these voices from the past were lost when the restaurant was renovated following a fire in 2010.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 4.30 – 10.30pm
Saturday, 5pm – 10.30pm
Contact 021 439 6644, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it 89 Main Road, Green Point, Cape Town
Reviewer Matthew Flax
Image credit: House & Garden
A staircase on Waterkant Street in De Waterkant leads you up to this delightful pocket-sized osteria, whose owner Enrico Tarantino is as charming and unpretentious as the delicious plates he dishes up. The daytime vibe is warm and rustic (think unsanded wooden tables, a chalkboard menu and easy-listening Italian music), which gets a makeover when the sun goes down, with white tablecloths, dim lighting and a cosy fireplace for winter nights.
The food For starters, we shared the Tuscan Cigars (stracciatella and rocket wrapped in Parma ham), which were divine. We tried two pasta dishes for mains: the not-too-rich and creamy Gnocchi Gorgonzola, which were pillowy and comforting, and the 4 Ps pasta (pappardelle, Parmesan, porcini and pancetta), which was delectable and moreish. The cannoli for dessert rounded off a truly satisfying experience.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 1pm – 4pm; 6.30pm – 9pm
Contact 076 505 1771
Where to find it 125A Waterkant Street, De Waterkant, Cape Town
Reviewer Nikki Benatar
La Frasca Restaurant & Pizzeria
This cosy, authentic Italian restaurant and pizzeria in Breda Street in Gardens is run by husband-and-wife team Fabrizio (chef) and Erika (front of house), who hail from Trieste in northeast Italy. The name is a tribute to their city where a family would hang a red arrow (la frasca) on a tree branch near the road close to their home as an invitation for passersby to come inside for some good food and wine.
At La Frasca, this is exactly what you get.
For starters, try the Triesit: home-cured ham and “papate in tecia” (potatoes with onion, herbs and ham) in a mustard vinaigrette and cumin seeds. The pizza menu promises large, thin and crispy bases that have been hand-rolled and individually prepared. Opt for the Quattro Plus, you won’t be sorry. It includes tomato, mozzarella, home-cured ham, oven-cooked salami, fresh mushrooms, fresh onions, artichoke hearts, freshly chopped chillies, black olives, oregano and extra-virgin olive oil. The fresh home-made spinach and ricotta ravioli is melt-in-your-mouth delicious with beef ragout, Grana Padano and fresh herbs.
The interiors are warm and inviting, and Erika makes you feel right at home with her thick Italian accent. The wooden tables and chairs are neatly arranged, and although it’s a cosy fit, you don’t feel like you’re too close to the other tables – it’s ideal for date night or dinner with the family. Our waiter was very attentive and friendly.
Contact 072 083 5676
Where to find it 8 Breda Street, Oranjezicht, Cape Town
Reviewer Liza West
Alforno Ristorante Italiano
Opened in February 2016 by Mauritian-born Dominic Rivet, this cosy bistro-style eatery off the cobblestone streets of De Waterkant fulfills all expectations of what an Italian restaurant should be: cosy, comfortable, laid-back and intimate, with delicious, wholesome food!
Begin with a tasty antipasto selection of bruschetta, carpaccio, fritto misto (deep-fried seafood with a tartare sauce) before moving on to hearty main. We recommend the lovely, light Penne Catrioffe (garlic, artichoke, cherry tomato, basil, onion and ricotta) and the woodfired Brie Bacon e Cippole pizza.
For dessert, tiramisu is like none other. Or try the chocolate fondant… With timeless Italian music setting the tone, friendly waitstaff, and happy families seated at the casually clad tables, it’s easy to feel as though you’ve stepped out of the bustling Cape Quarter district and into an eatery in Rome.
Good to know If you’re a fan of getting your hands dirty (with an artistic edge, that is), swing by their Paint & Sip events every First Thursday of the month, where the restaurant is filled with blank canvases ready to be decorated.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 11am – 10.30pm
Contact 021 419 9555
Where to find it Shop 8, Cape Quarter, De Waterkant, Cape Town
Reviewer Kent Cloete
Who’d have thought a traditional trattoria would find its way to Melkbosstrand? If you haven’t paid a visit to this Ferrari-championing, sea-facing spot, where fresh, organic and locally reared produce is the order of the day, do it!
The menu is a delicious mix of classics (bruschetta, gnocchi Gorgonzola, quattro stagioni pizza) and modern interpretations (the Americano pizza features pepperoni sausage, black olives, rosa tomatoes, peppadews and mushrooms).
Good to know Eating at Maranello is a family affair so bring the little ones. Kids under 10 pay half price for half portions, while kids under three eat for free!
Opening times Wednesday – Monday, 10am – 11pm
Contact 021 553 5701, email@example.com
Where to find it 44 Beach Road, Melkbosstrand, Cape Town
Named after the historic Vesuvio volcano in Italy, this homely restaurant combines Italian sophistication with rustic simplicity (a combo only the Italians have mastered) from the decor to the food. With homemade pizza, pasta and traditional family recipes taking centre stage, this eatery has become known for its flavourful grub that delivers time and time again. For special occasions (or if you’re travelling from the city centre or further afield), it’s best to book ahead.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 12pm – 10pm
Contact 021 914 1414
Where to find it Waterfront and Fountain Roads, Bellville Park, Bellville
This small underrated restaurant in Woodstock is open daily for breakfast and lunch, catering mainly to tenants of the building it occupies, but opens on Thursday and Friday evenings for dinner. Signora makes authentic Italian dishes, which are the main event (not the ambience). On Friday evenings, the Italian community comes out to play and, as it only open two nights a week, booking is recommended.
One waitress serves all the tables, but Signora comes out of the kitchen between courses to check on her guests. Our absolute favourite to start is the melanzane alla parmigiana, which is one of the best in town. The gnocchi Gorgonzola and pollo pizzaiola (chicken breast with Napoletana sauce, capers and olives served on a bed of pasta) are good, but if the prawn pasta is on the blackboard, order it – it’s outstanding.
Contact 021 447 8684
Location Upper East Side, 31 Brickfield Road, Salt River (but use entrance in Pickwick Road)
In his characterful home in Observatory, Chef Lapo Magni creates flavourful dishes that draw on the Tuscan cooking traditions that were passed onto him by his mother. But it’s not just about the food, Lapo is all about about providing an authentic Italian dining experience.
Attendance is limited to small groups, who gather around a single long table in Lapo’s own kitchen, enjoying wine and conversation while the chef and his dedicated team prepare a five-course meal in full view of the guests (who get to watch as the risotto is stirred in the kitchen, and the meat roasted in the yard outside). You could just as well be participating in a traditional Italian family dinner (especially if you’re fortunate enough to be joined by Lapo’s mama, Elena Mattei, who runs her own cooking school – Cucina con Vista – in Florence).
Lapo himself is a big part of the experience, engaging with guests and providing entertaining introductions to each course, during which he’ll expound on his methods of sourcing and preparing ingredients, which in turn relates to his passionate belief in ethical and sustainable food practices.
Good to know Lapo’s Kitchen does not have a liquor license, so bring your own. Contact Lapo beforehand, so he can recommend the best wines to pair with the meal.
Opening times Lapo’s Kitchen is a pop-up restaurant, meaning it has no set opening times, but rather scheduled dates on which guests can book a place at the table.
Cost R500 per person for a five-course meal
Contact 082 332 1366, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it 18 Bellevliet Road, Observatory
Owned by Italian-born Massimo Orione and his British wife Tracy, this Hout Bay hangout is known for its family-friendly atmosphere and, of course, delicious home-cooked Italian food. Situated among the shops at Oakhurst Farm Park, the restaurant offers a cosy setting for grown-ups to enjoy mouthwatering Italian dishes, while the kids build up an appetite in the outside playground.
The extensive menu offers a wide selection of gluten-free and vegan options that taste just as good as the “real thing”.
We love that the restaurant uses eco-friendly takeaway containers.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 12pm – 9pm
Contact 021 790 5648, email@example.com
Where to find it Oakhurst Farm Park, Main Road, Hout Bay, Cape Town
We also rate:
- Pesce Azzuro
- True Italic
- Mamma Roma
- Con Brio Bistro
- Nonna’s Food Bar
- Il Leone Mastrantonio
- Nonna Lina
Research: Alicia Chamaillé, Nikki Benatar, Kent Cloete, Matthew Flax
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