If you’re a lover of good, clean Italian food, chances are you’ve dined at one of Giorgio Nava’s restaurants. The Milanese chef relocated to South Africa about 15 years ago, during which time he has opened seven successful restaurants, including 95 Keerom, 95 at Morgenster, the now defunct Mozzarella Bar and Caffe Milano (sadly), and three branches of Carne.
He opened 95 Keerom in 2003 and five years later the original branch of Carne opened across the road in Cape Town’s legal district. In the middle of 2014, Giorgio opened his second branch of Carne in Kloof Street and in November 2014, a third branch opened in Constantia, allowing southern suburbs dwellers to enjoy Giorgio’s sublime Milanese meals without having to trek over the mountain.
More than meats the eye…
Not surprisingly, Carne Constantia was an instant hit in the land of Labradors and Land Rovers – but only at dinnertime; for some reason the restaurant never seemed to realise its potential during the day. Over lunch one afternoon, Giorgio, the salubrious Seth Shezi and I considered the reasons for Carne Constantia’s scant lunchtime trade. Perhaps, we speculated, the Ladies Who Lunch would prefer to eat salad (or even fish, chicken or pasta) at midday, rather than red meat?
“But they can!” exclaimed Giorgio, “There is a lot on the menu for people who don’t want to eat meat,” he explained, gesturing to the waiter to bring us starter portions of an array of dishes, including baked chicken breast; grilled linefish; and L’Insalata di Avocado, with greens, cherry tomatoes, crunchy pecan nuts, fresh pear, blue cheese and olive oil.
Of course, the food, as always, was sublime… But the point is that Carne (meat in Italian) was perceived as a steakhouse, which might (or might not) be a deterrent for some. Also, we speculated that, while the setting in peaceful garden in the suburbs is most agreeable, the building is unassuming from the outside – and easy to drive past without noticing that there’s an award-winning restaurant inside.
A Fresh Green Start
Fast forward a year to August 2017. I’ve been invited to lunch (with a table full of bloggers and media people) by chef-proprietor Nava. The setting: the same beautifully renovated Victorian building on the corner of Constantia Main and Park Roads that was once home to Parks and more recently Carne Constantia. It’s now called 95 at Parks, taking the focus off meat, and the decor has been given a verdant overhaul, playing up its leafy setting. For example, the door and window frames have been painted green, and swathes of botanical-print drapes hang from the curtain rails. It’s a pretty departure but, if I’m honest, I preferred the previous interiors and furnishings.
On the menu
Discerning meat eaters can still expect Giorgio’s cut-above-the-rest steaks, “but we’ve extended our menu to appeal to our lunch time clientele, too,” he explains. For example, you’ll find steamed mussels in tomato and white wine; home-made butternut ravioli; Asian-inspired grilled tuna, as well as an exciting selection of salads: crispy baby calamari; quinoa with pomegranate, avocado and kale from the garden; steamed lentils with fresh green; and a deconstructed Caprese with creamy burrata mozzarella.
The dessert menu has six devilishly tempting options, including my absolute favourite, Fondente al Cioccolato (dark Italian-chocolate fondant with a liquid chocolate centre).
…And the rest
The service, as always, is slick and professional, with waitrons demonstrating an intricate knowledge of the menu.