Balducci’s new summer 2009/2010 menu, which was launched over the festive season, looks good enough to eat, with the most beautiful photography of some of the dishes.

An unusual menu size of A5, the menu looks like a magazine when one pages through it, with pages of menu items, categorised into antipasta/starters, insalata/salds, sushi, pizzas, gnocchi/pasta, pesce/seafood,  carne/meat, secondi piatti/second course, dolce/desserts and fromaggi/cheese. 

In relaunching the restaurant and its menu, owner Ian Halfon of the Slick Restaurant Group has focussed more strongly on the Italian origin of the Balducci name.   The front cover has a bold “Italian Chic” statement on it.  Underneath the restaurant name, it says “Ristorante Pizza  Seafood  Bar”, to define what Balducci’s stands for.

Unusual for a menu, it has ads Interspersed throughout, for Giani Jewellers, La Vie waters, Lindt chocolates, Amarula, Finders Keepers, Illy coffee and Evian water.  The menu also contains the wine list, and wines advertised are Noble Hill, Morgenster,  Pongracz, Veuve Clicquot, Dornier, Ataraxia, De Wetshof, Mooiplaas, Hartenberg,  Fleur du Cap, Wedderwill, Doolhoof, Nederberg, Waterkloof, and Steenberg.

To continue the magazine feel, the menu is priced at R 100, and has a bar code.   It even has a tag, in case one would think of leaving the restaurant with it.

Balducci’s seems to have lost the socialite following it had in its earlier days, but the owners may see this as a good thing, as this is a fickle customer group, moving from trendy to next trendy location.

What is impressive is its dedication to the environment, in that the menu is printed on recyclable (!) paper,   and “Balducci supports alien clearing by using alien wood types in our pizza ovens”.  The menu also states that the restaurant serves seasonal vegetables and fruit, as well as “superb quality procured meat …and fish.”   No frozen chicken is used, only Karan beef is used, as is award-winning Morgenster olive oil (which the menu claims is “imported”).

Interesting little notes are spread throughout the menu, for example gluten free pizza bases are offered, at an additional R 25.

The winelist section is introduced by a detailed description of the South African wine regions, districts and wards.   Each wine stocked has a vintage stated, even though a disclaimer states that vintages may run out.   Good tasting notes are provided per wine, and some wines are available by the glass.

Somewhat of a contradiction relative to its strong Italian positioning is the separate Balducci Burger Menu, an affordable selection of burgers made from ostrich, beef, chicken and lamb.  Very affordable wines, at R 22 per glass of Balducci House white and R 25 for the House red are served, while the bottle price of the house wines is under R 100.  

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com