Cape Town’s first Michelin-star linked restaurant has opened on the third floor at Villa 47. Pierino Penati Ristorante at Villa 47 is the sister restaurant to the one-star Michelin restaurant Pierino Penati, established seventy years ago in Brianza close to Milan in Italy. It raises the bar of fine dining in our city, and is now the best fine dining restaurant in Cape Town!

Pierino Penati Ristorante is owned by Chef Theo Penati, and was named after Chef Theo’s grandfather. A friendship had developed between Chef Theo and the Italian-origin co-owners of Rialto Foods, Luciano Previtera and Michele Mirotto, which has led to the restaurant collaboration. Not only is the same crockery and cutlery used in both restaurants, but its welcome drink is the same Pierino Penati house Prosecco. Many dishes on the menu are running concurrently, but others differ due to the difference in seasonal availability of ingredients between the two countries.

Even the Restaurant Manager Anna Manzone and the Head Chef Michelangelo D’oria have been imported from Italy.  I was told that not all ingredients are the same tasting in Italy and in Cape Town, and therefore Chef Theo is bringing many Italian basics to Cape Town, to allow for consistency between the two restaurants’ dishes, including such staples as salt and sugar! Chef Theo will fly between the two restaurants regularly. Last year Chef Theo spent some time in Cape Town, cooking at two charity events at Villa 47, which I was fortunate enough to attend: 

Italian Michelin star Chef Theo Penati brings Italian food culture to Villa 47 in aid of charity!

Arriving at the restaurant I noticed that the Villa 47 branding has been made bolder and stronger, with the words ‘Emporio Italiano’ added too. Lighting onto the building is also more prominent at night. In the past the third floor restaurant was a multinational cuisine one called Restaurant, and had an open flame cooking station visible from the dining section. Villa 47 now is a fully-fledged three restaurant emporium of Italian restaurants, with Seta (meaning Silk) set to open shortly on the second floor. The restaurant space for the new Pierino Penati restaurant has had a makeover, in the open kitchen in particular, with heavy duty cooking equipment now in place. New artwork has been hung on the walls, and the African masks removed. Frette Tablecloths and napkins are matching, made from the finest Italian linen, no tablecloths having been used in the past.  Riedel glassware is now used. Locanda on the ground floor has been a huge success from the day it opened in March last year.  

Restaurant Review: Villa 47 exciting new Italian emporium, Locanda restaurant excellent addition to Bree Street!

One arrives on the third floor of the Villa 47 building, having passed two large beautiful works of art (right) on the staircase nearest the restaurant entrance, and one is welcomed at the Pierino Penati branded small reception desk, as one would in the Italian sister restaurant. When walking into the restaurant, one passes the open plan kitchen, which is headed by Chef Michelangelo D’oria (right), who has moved to Cape Town from Italy to run the restaurant. PR consultancy Vivid Luxury provided more detail about Chef Michelangelo: ‘Prior to joining Pierino Penati, Cape Town, he was a chef at a restaurant, named VENISSA. It is within a small island named Burano.
All of the chefs were responsible for certain sections/dishes. There was not a head chef, but it was a shread experience. The first time there was a michelin-star chef was given to all the the chefs within a restaurant, instead of one head-chef. Michaelagelo has one Michelin-star. When he finished at Venissa, he met Chef Theo Penati and the idea was to come to Cape Town. Chef Theo Penati was looking for a chef that could emulate his ideas in Cape Town’. 

From Italy too is his second-in-charge chef Andrea Miut. Guests are met by Restaurant Manager Anna, who guides one to the table. Sommelier Oliver Loxton was waiting to welcome us in this area too. I had not previously noticed the interesting ceiling construction visible from this section of the restaurant. I was immediately impressed that Anna and Oliver wore black suits, adding an impressive level of class to this restaurant, something I have not ever seen at a Cape Town restaurant.  The Waiters and Oliver wore black ties. Air conditioning at the second dinner was set at a little too cold.

Anna guided us to the table, and left us with the A3 menu on cream board. The winelist was presented separately. Oliver soon came to check on our water requirement, and brought us a welcome drink, a Pierino Penati Prosecco, to which Créme de Pêche had been added, making it sweet, too sweet for my guest Annette Kreuck (right), who accompanied me for the second dinner I enjoyed at Pierino Penati Ristorante. Annette and her family are swallows from Germany, and love our restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands. Annette is a regular reader of my Blog, and while we had been Facebook Friends for a while, we had never met. We are both avid lovers of restaurants.  A week prior I had been invited to try the restaurant as a guest of Villa 47, and my guest at the dinner was Roché Marais, a young man whom I had met at a cigar tasting at OpenWine.  Roché and I decided to order one dish per course, and to not order the same dish, so that we could taste each other’s dishes. Annette and I reduced our eating to two courses and a dessert, as I had experienced a heavy restaurant eating week. For the first dinner, we asked Oliver to pair the wines from the winelist with our dishes. For the second dinner I abstained from the wines with the exception of one of the courses. Annette also only drunk one glass of wine with dinner. 

On the table is a white sideplate with a napkin laid between the knife and fork, exquisite Villeroy & Boch cutlery, the most beautiful I have ever seen at any restaurant I have eaten at, locally and internationally. On top of the napkin is a sprig of lavender, an unusual touch. There are no salt or pepper grinders, nor any flowers or candles. The decor has changed in regard to the tablecloth and matching napkins, as well as the art on the wall, some of it for sale. I did not get all the artists’ names, but Oliver found the names of Vanessa Verbelo and Helo Samo for me. One wall still has a mirror covering it entirely, making the restaurant space appear larger, and the other has a lit gas heater with a mirror wall behind it too. Music is jazz, too loud at the second dinner at one stage. 

Anna talked us through the menu at the first dinner, explaining each of the twelve dish options on the menu. She did not do so at the second dinner, perhaps thinking that I knew the descriptions. She did not ascertain our dietary requirements, a surprise. My guest Annette had not been to the restaurant before, and did not know the dishes. She gave us some time to decide what to order, and then returned to take our order. Oliver selected our wines for the first dinner, whilst Annette requested a glass of 2015 Sauvignon Blanc by Elgin Ridge (R75 per glass, R245 per bottle). Annette was very impressed that Oliver only poured part of her wine, promising to return to the table to top up her drink with more of the chilled wine, which he did! Anna returned to our table, to take the order. She arranged that I could take photographs at the pass, having excellent light. 

An Amuse Bouche was brought to the table. At the first dinner it was a tomato jelly, covering a ball of mozzarella and ricotta, topped with micro herbs, and an olive oil jus, described by Anna as ‘Secret Caprese’. I was impressed that the Amuse Bouche had changed for the second dinner, being tuna tartare with miso eggplant and topped with a rice crisp. We had also received a bread plate with delicious salt-crusted ciabatta, and olive oil brought to the table in a beautiful small black ceramic jug. I asked Anna if it was possible to have some butter, and she had some sent to our table, beautifully presented with micro herbs and flowers. At our second dinner she asked me immediately if I wanted some butter again, but did not offer the olive oil, which Annette might have preferred. 

I am reporting on all the dishes we tried at both dinners below, course by course: 

Antipasti

The Antipasti section of the menu offers four options. Between the two dinners, we tasted all four of these:

#   Sea bass tartare (R120) was Roché’s first dinner choice, and I was impressed with the fish cutlery offered, so unusual to see. Once again it was Villeroy & Boch, extremely beautiful. The dish was served with crispy vegetables, toasted bread, and a yoghurt sauce. Oliver paired this course with Celestina Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon Blend 2016 (R85 per glass, R280 per bottle).

#   I ordered the Perfect Egg at the first dinner, the egg being prepared for three and a half hours at 62C, Anna explained.  It is served with asparagus and a delicious liquid Parmesan sauce, with small pieces of Crostini (R110). For this dish Oliver had paired it with Black Oystercatcher Capsicum 2016,  made by winemaker Dirk Human.  Oliver explained that the acidity of the wine cuts through the fat of the Perfect Egg. I did not see the details and cost of this wine on the winelist. Annette also ordered this dish for our second dinner. 

#   At my second dinner I ordered the crunchy octopus, served with delicious creamy fluffy potatoes, a type of mash but richer due to the added cream, with green beans, and green apple (R165).  The creamy fluffy potatoes overshadowed the too salty octopus in deliciousness. 

#   I had seen the order for another guest of the Vertical Salad at the first dinner, and ordered it as a second starter for the second dinner. It is such an unusual presentation of a salad within a cage made from Emmenthal cheese, and filled with a mix of green leaves, sprouts, walnuts, topped with popcorn, and the plate dotted with raspberry jelly and tartare sauce! (R125). Twice I was asked at the second dinner if my plate could be cleared, despite not having finished eating.

Primi Piatti

At the two dinners we only tried two of these four dishes:

#   Spaghetti Taranici, which Anna explained is made from a very healthy wheat being rich in fiber, which was originally from Mesopotamia, and is topped with cheese, black pepper, smoked beef tartare, and grated black truffle (R195). Both Roché and Annette ordered this dish, but we could not detect the truffle taste. Annette felt that the pepper and truffle would have fought each other in taste. Oliver paired this dish with Thorn and Daughters Copper Pot Pinot Noir 2016 (R85 per glass, R300 per bottle). 

#  I loved the Pea Ravioli, which I ordered at the first dinner, served with Burrata mozzarella, red onion, and anchovy bread, the latter two ingredients removed at my request (R175). I was impressed about the flexibility of the restaurant in this regard. I loved the attractive dish without having too many elements added. The pea taste was a highlight, an enhanced taste due to the Thermomix, Annette explained, visible to us from our table. This dish was paired with Niels Joubert’s Saboteur 2017, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Viognier. This wine was not on the winelist. 

#   Risotto Milanese with saffron and Parmesan is a further dish offered (R150)

#   Oyster Tagliolini with Sea water, potatoes, parsley bread, and a spicy tomato and Italian salami sauce is the fourth dish option. 

Pesce

Two Fish dishes are offered: 

#   Sea bass baked on a herb aromatised brick of salt and served with vegetables of carrots, beans, baby marrow, potato, and lemon mayonnaise  (R180). I found the potatoes touching the salt brick to be very salty, even getting some of the salt crystals into my mouth. I am very sensitive to the taste of salt in food. The herb salt bricks are made in-house.

#   Black cod was described on the menu as being ‘in a green dress code‘, perhaps a ‘lost in translation’ description.(R390). It came with fries and spinach. It was an attractive dish, photographed by Roché. 

Both our Fish dishes at the first dinner were paired with Catherine Marshall Semillon 2015, which comes from cool climate Elgin (R390). 

Carni

Two meat dish options are offered:

#   Slow-cooked Beef cheek, served with asparagus, and extra virgin oil potatoes (R190). The portion is on the small side, and the cheek was very tender. It was paired with Arendsig Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, a good pairing despite Cabernet Sauvignon not being my favorite red wine cultivar (R92 per glass, R315 per bottle). 

#   Costoletta Milanese, a Wiener Schnitzel equivalent but presented on the bone, served with salad and potato crisps, an Italian style of presentation (R280).  The meat was tough to get off the bone, Roché said, but easy to chew. This dish was paired with Magliarina Chardonnay 2015 (R75 per glass, R255 per bottle). 

Dolci

We tried three dishes from the four options offered over the two dinners, the dessert list presented on a separate list, together with Brandy, Rum and whisky, a port, Noble Late Harvest, as well as Italian Grappas and Limoncello:

#   Warm zabaione served with savoiardi biscuits. (R110). The recipe dates back to 1829, the menu informs. For every egg yolk a tablespoon of sugar is added, with Malaga or white wine. The dessert is ladled into a Martini glass at the table, out of a beautiful brass pot. Annette and I both ordered it for the second dinner. 

#   Fra-Goloso is made with Ovis Mollis biscuits, strawberries cooked in Bonarda wine, meringue shards, white chocolate shards, and fresh cream cheese, with a strawberry sorbet (R110). 

#  Hazelnut spread and passion fruit sorbet, with chocolate sponge, crème anglaise, and cookie crumbs, Roché’s dessert choice, looked and tasted full of chocolate (R110). 

#  We didn’t taste the fresh fruit sorbets (R120), flavours offered being strawberry, raspberry, passion fruit, and lemon. 

A perfect decaffinated dry cappuccino was made for me. 

Pierino Penati has had small opening teething problems, mainly in terms of service consistency between the two dinners, which I shared with Operations Manager Peter Douglas, who is always open to feedback, and acts on it. Both my dinners were within the first ten days of the restaurant opening. Cape Town has not experienced fine dining at this level before, and I am excited that a truly international restaurant can raise the bar for our restaurant industry, our handful of fine dining restaurants displaying complacency and unbecoming personal politics of late! Pierino Penati Ristorante is the most genuine Italian cuisine restaurant in Cape Town, with two Chefs and the Manager and even ingredients imported from Italy. 

Chef Theo Penati’s fine dining food philosophy is that food should be both healthy and sustainable,  and he supports this belief by using only the freshest ingredients with the greatest provenance. The focus at Pierino Penati is on flavor, innovation and authenticity. Well known in the European food scene, international food bible Savour Magazine quotes Chef Theo as ‘a pioneer and disciple of the ‘Kitchen Evolution’ – cuisine that focuses on attaining a balance of the mind and body‘, the media release I received on behalf of the restaurant informed.  Chef’s Tables, Champagne Pairing Menus, and Chef Master Classes are to be introduced in the future, as well as seasonal menu updates featuring rare Italian fresh produce like white truffles, which Chef Theo will bring back from his visits from Italy.  Established by Chef Theo’s grandfather, the Italian Pierino Penati Ristorante has remained in his family ever since, with all three generations of the family of chef-owners attaining their Michelin-stars.

At the first dinner it was lovely to see Libstar Rialto Foods holding company’s André Naude, who was a client of my PR company when he worked at Tiger Foods, and whom I remet at the opening dinner of the Restaurant, the predecessor to Pierino Penati, a year ago. He and a fellow Director were having dinner with Rialto Foods’ Director Michele Mirotto. 

Pierino Penati Cape Town, Villa 47 Emporio Italiano, 47 Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 418-2740 www.villa47.co.za Twitter: @Villa47onBree Instagram:@villa47onbree Tuesday – Saturday Dinner. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein