When it opened on buzzy Bree Street in 2014, Bocca was an instant hit for its ridiculously scrumptious Neapolitan-style pizzas made in a super-snazzy Italian-imported oven. Coupled with this, its light and airy interiors – and window-facing bar stools – also attracted the cocktail set, who’d gather in the late afternoon to shoot the breeze, while waiting for the traffic to subside.
And then dear old Bocca got lost in a frenetic flurry of new restaurant openings, for which Cape Town is well known. Hotter, sexier and tastier haunts were popping up left, right and centre, and this innercity pizzeria, like many others, failed to innovate and evolve, landing itself in the middle of the heap.
Well, guess what? Bocca is back on the block! With spiffy new interiors, a delicious new menu, and Italian owners!
Bocca gets a makeover
Italian couple Guido and Adnana Brambilla had been based in Bermuda for eight years – Guido as executive chef for an international hotel, and Adnana as head of sales and marketing for a restaurant group – and were ready for a change. “Our first thought was Cape Town, where we’d honeymooned nine years previously. We really love this city,” explains Adnana.
So when Bocca came up for sale, they literally grabbed the keys, and started renovating immediately.
After a month-long revamp, Bocca reopened its doors in November 2018, looking spick and span, with exciting modern interiors and an impressive contemporary-Italian menu to match. A striking green-tiled wall and deep-buttoned leather benches create a cool atmosphere in the downstairs space, with counter seating on the mezzanine level allowing patrons to admire the bustling kitchen below.
“We wanted to create a space where people can experience a taste of modern Italian cuisine,” says Adnana. “You can come by yourself and sit at the counter for a glass of wine and a few small plates, or arrive as a group and share a selection of dishes. It’s a place for people to connect over food.”
Bocca menu: Food for all
Milanese-born chef Guido has devised a savvy menu that features an array of Italian-inspired favourites as well as dishes he’s encountered on his travels. “Even though Guido is from the north of Italy,” explains Romanian-born Adnana, “he’s included dishes from all over the country because, actually, the further south you go, the more interesting the cooking becomes.” As such, the smart new menu is divided into six categories: Bites, Crispy, Grains, Pizzette, Arrosti, and Last Stop.
Bites is essentially the cold section, comprising a selection of mouthwatering small plates that are designed for sharing, such as stracciatella (creamy Italian-style cheese) with roasted cherry tomatoes and confit eggplant; and the polpo of Atlantic octopus with potatoes and basil pesto, a classic Mediterranean-inspired plate. But it is the yellow-fin tuna carpaccio, topped with finely chopped olives, tomato, oregano, spring onions and Cape micro herbs that is revelatory in its simplicity.
The Crispy section is self-explanatory, featuring dishes with a crunch or crumble. The Ital Chips (twice-cooked potato wedges with Parmesan, rosemary and truffle drizzle) are so ridiculously moreish – I will return for these and the carpaccio alone! Looking for something meatier? The polpettine (small meatballs) of beef, pork and lamb, dipped in divine mayo verde will hit the spot, while the seafood misto (mix) of calamari, white bait, prawns and mussels is a winner for pescetarians.
Grains is where you’ll find the pasta dishes, all of which are made with imported Rummo pasta. Expect well-made classics, such as slow-baked ragù with fusilli, as well as the flavour-busting Cassiopipa (a Venetian seafood ragù served with penne, and infused with oriental spices that pay homage to Cape Malay cooking! The combination of Italian textures and oriental spices is quite something!
Pizzette (small pizzas) is a smart new addition, ideal for diners who feel like a slice or two, but don’t necessarily want to be restricted to a pizza-only meal. Sharing a half-size one allows you to try other dishes, too. Like before, the Acunto oven cooks pizzas in 90 seconds, at temperatures topping 600°C, rendering mouth-watering orbs of deliciousness.
Arrosti (roast) is a brand-new section on the menu, that is not only delicious, it’s darn canny! Guido discovered that after a long night of pizza-making, the residual heat from the oven had warmed the entire restaurant! So he decided to harness the heat – and slow-cook large cuts of beef, lamb, poultry and pork in the oven overnight! Try the shredded and braised-in-red-wine Angus brisket, served on rustic sourdough, and topped with a drizzle of cooking jus and salsa verde!
Last Stop is, as you’d expect, the dessert section. Expect a modern spin on Italian classics and, whatever you do, try the tiramisu, made with Puglia mascarpone cream! Overheard: “This is better than the tiramisu I had in Italy.” The pineapple carpaccio with muscadet marinade and pineapple fritters sounds divine, as does the fresh lemon curd with chocolate crumble and seasonal strawberries.
“We expect the menu to change four times a year, as I really want to work with the seasons,” says Guido, who has already tapped into leading local suppliers. “I have tasted so many excellent local olive oils and meats and cheeses; I don’t see any reason to use imported Italian products when there is such wonderful produce made right here in Cape Town.”
We’ll raise our glasses to that! Saluti!