Last Thursday I was one of a number of writers who was invited to attend the Summer Dinner launch at Giulio’s Café, the restaurant opening for dinner trade for the first time, on Thursday and Sunday evenings.
Long tables had been created from the restaurant’s smaller tables, and place-names indicated where we were to sit. I sat in a German collection of guests, possibly coincidentally. We were welcomed with Aperol Spritz, with a banner and two gentlemen wearing hats, a strong orange greeting. The banner served as the background for photographs to be taken. Tables were decorated with greenery, and dishes shared per course were intended to be placed between two sharers in the middle of the table. The restaurant had been festively decorated for Christmas.
Chef Sue-Ann Allan, of MasterChef SA fame, worked with Giulio’s Café owner Giulio Loggerian and Chef Jess Green in planning and executing the dinner. Giulio’s parents had flown down from Johannesburg, to join in the celebration.
The menu awaited us on the table, and was a nine course spoil! The service commenced with slices of pizza served before we had sat down, including Margherita, and Parma Pizza (with mozzarella cheese, tomato, herbs, Parma ham, rocket, and Parmesan shavings). Pizzas are available at lunchtime too. Focaccia breads followed, one a plain, and the other a Caprese, with garlic, sliced tomato, and mozzarella.
By now we were seated, and the last guests had arrived, having got stuck in the traffic due a very busy First Thursday. One of the most special dishes was the Insalata Caprese, with the most delicious creamy Burrata mozzarella from Puglia, served with balsamic roasted vine tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, basil pesto, yellow pepper gel, and a roasted pine nut crumble, a striking splash on the plate.
Grilled Falkland calamari tubes and heads followed, prepared with chili oil, salsa verde, delicious and crispy potato strings, and finished off with caramelised lemon.
Beetroot carpaccio followed, with different textures of beetroot, a light and fluffy goats’ cheese mousse, pea shoots, and Parmesan Crisps, beautifully presented, it being another favourite of mine.
No Italian meal is complete without a pasta dish, and this was a spinach and ricotta ravioli. It had been prepared with burnt butter, crisp sage toasted walnuts, deep-fried pickled peppers, Rocket, and Parmesan shavings.
The meat dish was Veal Marsala, very tender, and its texture made me think of calf’s liver. It was served with crushed baby potatoes in rosemary and garlic, green beans, almonds, and thyme-fried shimeji mushrooms. Giulio’s mom Franca told me that she sourced the meat from Sacks’ Butchery.
A surprise was being served a palate cleanser prior to the dessert, as it had not been listed on the menu, a mint apple sorbet, very refreshing for the hottest summer’s day of the season.
As if we had not been spoilt enough, the dinner ended off with a trio of classic Italian desserts: vanilla yoghurt pannacotta with a berry compote; sweet ricotta cannoli; and la Bomba di pcioccolato. Hazel knows my cappuccino preference very well, and she made me two to drink with the dessert treat. She and her waitron colleagues looked very smart in black shirts and black branded Giulio’s aprons.
Chef Jess Green finally exited the Kitchen, and looked very humble in the praise heaped on her. Last year Giulio and I had done a weekend road trip to Swellendam and McGregor, and we met Chef Jess while she was working at then highly-regarded Italian restaurant La Sosta in Swellendam. It has since been sold. Chef Jess had previously worked at Cellars-Hohenhort, and at Le Quartier Français before Chef Margot Janse left The Tasting Room early this year. It was a surprise to hear that Chef Jess had studied Nature Conservation.
Morevino co-director Bubs Hyland introduced the Italian-style Prosecco sparkling wine Valdo to us, in a most beautiful floral bottle design, which is distributed by her company.
Giulio came to each table regularly, to check on each of us, and requesting feedback about each of the dishes we had been served. He shared that we were served a number of the Dinner menu dishes, but not all. It was a lovely dinner, with excellent fresh and simple food, and an Italian family spirit. A number of us writers had not seen each other in a while, so the dinner was one of reconnection too.
Giulio’s Café, 16 Loop Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 418-6304. www.giulios.co.za Twitter: @GiuliosCafe Instagram: @giulios_cafe Monday – Friday 7h00 – 16h00, Dinners Thursday and Friday, Breakfast Saturday until 12h30.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein