How exciting to experience a restaurant, on its fourth (followed by its 6th and 8th!) day of opening, and enjoy the meal, the service, and the experience! Villa 47 is an exciting three-story Italian food emporium, of which the ground-level Locanda restaurant opened last Monday.
Michele Mirotto, the Rialto co-partner and shareholder of the Libstar Group, which owns Rialto, explained the ‘Villa 47’ name, the three storey building looking like an Italian villa, with shutters, and 47 their street number on Bree Street. The emporium is owned by Rialto, an importer of Italian products, distributed to Giovanni’s, Checkers, Spar, and Woolworths. On its ground-floor is the friendly and buzzing 60-seater Italian restaurant called Locanda, which stands for one/whole family in Italian, one being welcome to bring one’s dogs and children. This may cause initial brand confusion, as the Villa 47 name is prominent on the outside of the building, while the Locanda name is only seen on the menu. A courtyard will open up from Locanda, in which an olive tree has been planted, and will have vegetable and herb planters for the kitchens too. On the second floor a bar, with house music, and an Italian finger food restaurant is planned, to be called Stuzzico. On the third floor will be The Restaurant, with a coal-fire open-plan kitchen fine-dining Italian restaurant ‘with a twist’, much like Zuma and Roka in London, with the menu designed with Chef Jason Whitehead. Currently Chef Clayton Bell, who worked at Constantia Uitsig, and Cape Point Vineyards, before joining Rialto to plan the new restaurant, works at Locando, but he will move to The Restaurant when it opens in 4-6 weeks’ time. Chef Vittorio Bianchi works with Chef Clayton as his sous chef, and is in charge of a special glass-enclosed Meat and Cheese Room, filled with Italian meats and cheeses, as well as Italian craft beers. He will take over the running of Locanda when Chef Clayton moves to The Restaurant.
The wooden top tables have decorative black cast iron legs, and some table tops are covered with grey tiles. Chairs have a black metal structure with wooden seating and backing. Tables have a basil plant, a nice touch (explained to us as an alternative way of communicating to staff that the table is reserved), a Tobasco holder with two of their products, Cape Herb and Spice Company Atlantic Sea Salt and Extra Bold Pepper grinders, Olitalia Balsamic Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Olitalia and Granora branded and informative paper place mats, gauze serviettes, and very upmarket Hepp Exclusiv cutlery! Tables are also placed in the space created in the sliding doors, with planters towards the pavement, forcing one to enter via a side door. A blackboard contains the specials, which were a fantastic pancetta covered medley-of-mushroom risotto with truffle oil (R145), which I ordered, a dish I had never seen before. They also offered a yellowfin tuna, green peppercorn sauce, ribbon courgette, and sweet potato crisps (R165), and 380g Wagyu beef with roast potatoes and salsa verde at R450.
It was explained to us by Operations Manager Peter Douglas that Rialto has operated for 17 years in bringing Italian products to our country, and that Villa 47 will be a showcase of the Rialto products, placed on the shelving in the kitchen and in the restaurant itself. They will not sell the products from Villa 47, however, to prevent a conflict of interest with their retail clients. We had an interesting discussion with our waiter Dean as to whether their pasta dishes have freshly-made pasta or whether the imported pasta is used. We did not understand the final answer to this question. Peter came across from The Grand, and appears to have brought a number of staff with him, The Grand Camps Bay having been sold to Harbour House Group’s Michael Townsend.
Tony Ward and Paul de Kock joined me for lunch, and we photographed each other’s dishes and tried them too. Our waiter Dean brought copious amounts of tap water with ice and lemon to the table, as well as a brown paper bag with ciabatta and bread sticks. Paul ordered a panini with roasted aubergine, sundried tomatoes, Brie, and basil (R60), and was not happy with the amount of filling, being left with one half of the baguette, which he sent back to the kitchen. Chef Clayton sent him a take-away wrap with the same ingredients to the table, and he was happy. Two other panini options with prosciutto are available (R80/R85). Wraps (piadine) are less expensive, with similar ingredients to the paninis. Paninis and piadines are only available for lunch.
Tony enjoyed his Caesar salad, which contained a good number of anchovies and was topped with Grana Padano shavings (R95), and is listed in the Starter section. Other starters are beef carpaccio (R80), octopus carpaccio (R95), chicken liver and chorizo bruschetta (R90), a house salad (R75), and Caprese salad (R100).
The risotto dish of the day varies. Five pasta dishes include Pomodorino (R80), and a signature house Tortellini (R115). Gluten-free pasta is an option for these dishes. Main courses include beef sirloin (R185), Saltimbocca alla Romana (R165), Kudu Tagliata (R205), Villa 47 Burger (R110), prawns with oyster sauce (R240), and grilled catch of the day (R150). A full menu page is dedicated to platters, being meat ones only (R80), speciality cheese ones only (R80), and meat and cheese ones (R125), at various price points based on the number of persons. Prices provided here are for 2 persons.
Dean proactively showed me the Ham and Cheese room, introduced me to a busy Chef Clayton, showed me the bathrooms, with sections of walls kept in rough brick, and others tiled in grey. He showed me the courtyard, which is still work in progress.
I had seen Tiramisu (R50) on the very limited dessert menu, so it was an obvious choice, and was excellent. Tony ordered the yoghurt panna cotta with rose-scented raspberry coulis (R65), while Paul had the Affogato al Caffé (R32). The fourth dessert option is Panettone Bread and Butter pudding (R65). We ordered coffees with the desserts, and were surprised when Dean brought us three wrapped Amaretti soft mini-cakes with them. Dean checked for us who the ceramicist of their bowls are, and Peter came back with Chicha Ceramics as the answer!
On Saturday morning my friend Jenny and I enjoyed a late breakfast, and the Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon (R82) I ordered was excellent and very filling. Jenny enjoyed her scrambled egg with pancetta (R78). They also offer fresh pastries, croissants filled with scrambled egg and pancetta (R60), and granola with fruit, yoghurt and honey (R65). Freshly squeezed juices and smoothies can also be ordered. Waiter Dean served us, and the service was perfect, with visits to our table by co-owner Luciano Previtera, Manager Chad Elario (also ex-The Grand), and Operations Manager Peter, to check on us.
Locanda has a liquor licence via Rialto. The wine list does not specify vintages. Italian sparkling wines are offered (R175 – R190), as are Villiera Tradition Rosé Brut (R240), Villiera Monro Brut (R390), Claudia Brut (R340), and Silverthorn The Green Man Brut (R460). Champagnes range from R 950 (G.H. Mumm, Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, and Moët & Chandon) to R1200 (Veuve Clicquot Rosé and Bollinger Cuvee Brut). The wine-by-the-glass offering is limited to three white wines (R45-R65), one Rosé (R48), four local red wines (R52-R55), and one Italian (R60) red wine.
It is rare for me to feel so at home in a restaurant so quickly, and three visits within one week is a record! I have not found one point of weakness yet! It has quickly become my Cape Town favorite, just when I was starting to despair at the city’s growing same-same pizza-pasta-burger restaurant offering!
Disclosure: Yesterday my cappuccino and Tiramisu were comped by co-owner Luciano Previtera.
POSTSCRIPT 5/4: This evening I managed to photograph the Octopus Carpaccio, which I have eaten at a previous dinner, but could not photograph then due to poor light. We were shown the near-complete Courtyard to Locando, which will open for the first time for First Thursday.