Tag Archives: Olitalia

Crisp deli a crisp addition to Franschhoek’s food offering!

Crisp signage Whale CottageOn Saturday I managed to get to see Crisp for the first time, it having closed early on the Sunday of the Bastille weekend.  It offers Franschhoek locals and visitors an amazing variety of fresh, canned, bottled, and packaged produce at very reasonable prices, with service from very professional staff.

On my previous visit, looking through the window, I expected a restaurant, seeing the four tables (with Boekenhoutskloof-branded table tops) and multi-coloured wooden chairs, but currently they only serve very good coffee (from Euro Café) and water.   The Deli belongs to Ainsa McTaggart Jooste, the staff told me, who already owns a Crisp in Riebeek-Kasteel.  However, the website shares that Crisp is a supplier of fresh produce to restaurants and hotels.  I know one of the two staff members Wendy, who previously was the Assistant Manager at the Salmon Bar, the most friendly and efficient staff member I have ever experienced there.  Wendy told me that they are planning to do meals, such as cheese and charcuterie platters, as well as additional items on a small menu. Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Vovo Telo brings artisanal baking to the V&A Waterfront!

A surprise addition to the V&A Waterfront is Vovo Telo, a small, boutique and petite artisanal bakery and restaurant franchise which opened its first branch in Cape Town at the beginning of this week.  It is homely and welcoming, very un-V&A Waterfront and very un-franchise, and sells a range of excellent artisanal breads, as well as pastries.  The essence of the brand is ‘love, bread, coffee’.

There are five branches in Johannesburg (the one in Parkhurst being the flagship), two in Pretoria, and two in Port Elizabeth.  Mark Burger is the franchisee of the V&A branch, and is already eyeing other locations in Cape Town, Constantia being a potential.  Mark has been in the food franchising business for the past thirty years, having started Skippers Fish & Chips and creating franchise branches, owning Debonairs, Bravo, and Fontana before selling these.  He joined Famous Brands, the company which owns the Steers, Vivo Telo, Debonairs Pizza, Wimpy, Mugg & Bean, House of Coffees, and Tashas chains, and was their New Business Director when it was still called Steers Holdings. He has opened 300 – 400 franchises in the past 20 years, and is likely to be a tough-negotiating V&A Waterfront tenant.  He says that they have become far more flexible already. When he signed the contract, he was not told that the V&A Food Court would be closed until November, inclusive of the seating area outside it, curtailing the traffic to his store.

To keep the business in his ‘bloodline’, he has teamed up with his nephew Jade and his wife Adele. Mark lives in Johannesburg, having a son at school there, but plans to move to Cape Town eventually. The store can seat 75 customers inside the 210 m² and outside, and has a classy yet friendly interior, with chandelier, and Persian carpets. A fun mural above the bread shelves reflects Cape Town, with Table Mountain, at which ‘table’ Queen Victoria is depicted, with a ‘I want my coffee’ tattoo on her arm. The decor is standard across all the Vovo Telo branches, done by Mary from Famous Brands.  The name ‘Vovo Telo’ means ‘grandfather’s place’ in Portuguese, and comes from a holiday the three original owners spent in Madagascar, where they stayed at a Vovo Telo hotel, and saw a local with a baguette on his bicycle, igniting an interest to start a bakery named Vovo Telo in Port Elizabeth.  The three original owners are still very hands-on in and passionate about their business.  During the day one can sit outside in good weather, and the Marimba band performing nearby adds a good vibe.  Tables are a mix of aluminium and wood, and chairs are white moulded plastic.  Vovo Telo branded brown and white sugar sachets, and coarse sea salt and black pepper grinders are on the tables.  The menu design mirrors the fun feel of the website.  Paper serviettes are offered.

Because Vovo Telo is primarily a bakery, customers do not necessarily think that it will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as coffee and tea all day, with a selection of good pastries.  I had heard on my first visit that a Master Patissier starts with the group next week, and he will be travelling between the different franchises, to do staff training on pastries, still an area with improvement potential, Mark said honestly.  Part of the interior is the restaurant seating on the mezzanine level, and a few tables downstairs alongside the pastry counter and the massive bread oven.  A small table has pieces of bread which one can sample with Olitalia olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread is special in that Eureka stone-ground flour is used, to which is added a special culture which is passed on from store to store.  The bread dough leavens for 14 – 16 hours, to ‘ferment and rise’, I was told, and no preservatives are added.  Dough is hand-rolled, making the baking artisanal.  The baking staff were sent to a Johannesburg branch for training. Everything in the store is made from scratch, even the pasta, which Mark told me is already receiving rave reviews.  Bread styles which are made are Ciabatta (R16), 70% Rye and 30% Italian flour (R22), Sourdough (R20), Cheese Sticks (R15), Olive breadsticks (R18), Panini (R6), Baguette (R11), and Olive Sourdough (R30).  Ready-made sandwiches cost around R29, including salami, Reuben, ham, and Pastrami.

The pastry section displays whole cakes (e.g. orange almond, carrot, chocolate, pecan nut, cheesecake) available by the slice (R18 – R25), as well as pastries such as croissants (R10), berry pin wheel (R18), Pain aux Raisin (R15), Pain au Chocolate (R14), Cheese straws (R18), muffins (R18), apple tart, a delicious strawberry and fresh cream tart, and pear tart at R18.  Coffee is by Ciro, and it is preferred that the cappuccino be served as a flat white (R16), but I was served a perfect dry cappuccino when I asked for it.

The menu is printed in green on cream paper, and states that any changes requested to menu items could lead to an additional 20 minute waiting time.  It also states that all prices include VAT, something one does not see on other restaurant menus.  All food is served on a sheet of branded paper on top of a branded wooden board.  Breakfast is served until 11h30, and free-range eggs are used.  Eggs can be ordered scrambled or poached (R22), with their breads, as well as a number of variations to which are added ham, cheeses, sauces, or boerewors.  Croque Madame (wilted spinach, Gruyere cheese, poached egg, and sourdough bread) costs R52. Toast/croissant and jam and cheese or Nutella costs R 26/25.  For the rest of the day, one can order gourmet sandwiches (R29 – R 39). Pissaladiere, being thin crust pizza bases made from ciabatta dough, range from R59 for Marinated tomatoes, and an olive and bocconcini mozzarella pizza, to R72 (ham and Brie, four cheeses, and Avocado, Gorgonzola, and Salami).  I enjoyed their Classic pizza last night, with crispy Gypsy ham, feta, and avocado after (R69). ‘Handcrafted’ Tagliatella is made daily, and is served with fresh tomatoes (R48), steak (R69), zucchini and pine nuts, smoked salmon (R69), and basil pesto and pine nuts. Salads offered are green, honey mustard chicken, roast vegetables, and a harvest board, peaking at R59. No main course costs more than R82 (fillet steak), and one can also order a lamb burger (R67), salmon trout, and an antipasta platter.

To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s reign this weekend, Vovo Telo is offering an amazing value R14 offer of warm scones with mascarpone cheese, strawberry jam, and Boerenkaas for all of next week, making one ‘good to go for another 60 years!’, says its flyer.  The application for the liquor licence has already been lodged, and is awaited.  A small range of alcoholic beverages will be sold, including &Union beers, five or so boutique wines, and some whiskies.

For being in the V&A Waterfront, the prices of Vovo Telo are exceptionally good. The quality of the breads and the good coffee are a further reason to make a stop at this outlet.  The staff is friendly, and the management is present all the time. The arrival of their credit card machine is eagerly awaited.

Vovo Telo, next to Vaughn Johnson, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 418-3750. www.vovotelo.com (Not much information on the website, Cape Town not yet listed). Twitter: @VovoTelo  Monday – Sunday, 7h30 – 21h00.

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

Restaurant Review: Il Cappero Italian Restaurant has few capers, but lots of Sicilian charm!

I discovered Il Cappero Italian Restaurant earlier this week, in a most unlikely and hard-to-see location on Barrack Street in town.   It is named after the caper, which a notice on the table says should be an essential part of Mediterranean cuisine, but I did not find many dishes with capers on the menu, or much in the dishes that have them.  The owners are charming, and try their very best to please their patrons.

What was once the restaurant of the Parliament Hotel, plus one ex-shop added, has become a pure Italian, or more specifically Sicilian restaurant, run hands-on by husband and wife team Aldo Bezzicheri and Cetti Romano (she comes from Palermo).  Aldo’s English is better, so he handles front-of-house, and does so charmingly, wanting to oblige all the time, while his wife Cetti is in the kitchen.   They opened Il Cappero a month ago, and are slowly becoming known.  The hotel guests eat their lunches and dinners at the restaurant, and this leads to one compromise, which is some non-Italian dishes on the menu, such as bobotie, Portuguese chicken, chicken curry, BBQ wings and lamb curry, all contained in a R75 – R85 price band, to cater for the hotel guests.

Aldo and Cetti have lived in South Africa since 2006, and they spent time in their previous career working on a yacht, he being the skipper and she doing the cooking.  Aldo has also been a pilot.  Cetti has taken the most amazing photographs of South African landscapes, which are mounted, and decorate the restaurant.  They reflect their love for their new country.  The choice of lilac for the walls is interesting and works, but does not give an Italian feel at all.  The colour is picked up in unusual purple, natural and cerise raffia strips which are tied around the material serviette, giving it an unique and neat touch.    Cutlery is contemporary, with a butter knife offered with the sideplate.  Glassware is good.   The chairs are covered with mock-ostrich.  The tables have Olitalia balsamico and extra virgin olive oil bottles, as well as ‘extra bold peppercorns’ and ‘Atlantic sea salt’ in small attractive looking grinders from Cape Herb and Spice, which I have never seen before.  Lavender glass candleholders are on the table.  Airconditioning works well in the venue which has no natural ventilation other than the front door, especially on the south-easter days.  

But the neatly bound black menu has more than enough to choose from for an authentic Italian and Sicilian experience.  In fact, I knew few of the names of the dishes, other than lasagne and the steak.  Aldo told me that Cetti goes to the market every day, to buy the fresh vegetables there, for the simple and healthy food that they serve.   They want their guests to feel cosy and homely, and it works, as I came back a second time a few days later.

As a small taste, Cetti sent the Caponata di Melzane for me to try, being eggplants, tomato, capers and olives cooked in a sweet and sour sauce.   The eggplant dominated, and as it is not my favourite vegetable, I did not enjoy it, especially as it was mushy and served cold.   I did enjoy the crispy ciabbatta.  Other starters, such as a parmesan cake, sweet and sour onion wrap, and a tuna and mascarpone mousse, were unknown to me.   Starters cost R40 – R75.  I ordered Frittura di Calamari, a generous plateful of calamari rings served for R75, which included a separate bowl of rice with red pepper pieces.   The batter was delicate, and Aldo told me that Cetti lightly dusts the calamari with flour, and then fries it in hot olive oil to make it crispy.  Pasta options include lasagne, carbonara, risotto of the day (the mushroom risotto was sold out by the time we came back the second time), pasta alla “Norma” (inspired by the opera), and a penne served with prawns cooked in Martini (R85), a definite for the next visit!  Steak is available, as T-bone, sirloin or fillet, as is involtini di vitello alla Siciliana (stuffed veal rolls).  No meat course costs more than R110.  One can order side dishes, mostly for R20 each, for example patata alla Sicilana, described as “potato in casserole with capers, olives and onions”, which I ordered instead of the baked potato or chip options that come with the sirloin steak, but I did not seem to get anything more than cut-up potato with the capers, olives and onions removed – I had only wanted the onions removed).  Five sauces are offered at R15 each, and the rosemary walnut sauce sounds interesting.

I liked the tiramisu (R40), served in a drinking glass, and obviously pre-made.  It had a rich alcohol taste, which comes from the Sicilian Marsala which Cetti uses.  It was quite compact and less creamy than I am used to in local equivalents.  I liked the chocolate chips on top of the tiramisu.   Cetti insisted that I take Cannolo Siciliano home with me, a crispy biscuit which is filled with ricotta cream and a citrus centre (R30).  Malva pudding seems an ‘intruder’ on the menu, but probably accommodates the hotel guests.   The cappuccino, made with LavAzza coffee, is very strong, but good, and is reasonably priced at R13.  Peppermints as well as a mini-Lindt chocolate were offered with the bill. 

For lunch a buffet is served, and is meant to offer office workers close by a quick and inexpensive way in which to enjoy a quality “eat all you can” lunch, at a most reasonable price of R75. 

The winelist is small, and vintages are not supplied.  I was impressed to see Brunello (at R380 for the bottle) on the list, and remembered how I nurtured a R75 glassful at a Tuscan restaurant about five years ago, it having been the most expensive wine I had ever drunk by the glass at that time.  Many of the white and red wine brands I had never heard of before but most I found in my Platter’s (Cloverfield, Stellenbosch Drive, Meerhof, Belbon Hills, Umfiki – for the whites – and Gugu for the red).  Seven wines-by-the glass are offered, none costing more than R30.  Bellanda San Fermo Prosecco is the only sparkling wine served by the glass (R40), with “champagne’s” Pongracz and Pongracz Rosé both costing R150, which is a bargain for the latter.

Il Cappero has the most charming host in Aldo.  I felt at home eating there.  The waiter needs training about not stretching when placing the cutlery on the table, and his knowledge is still restricted about the Italian dishes, but he is very willing to be of service.   Branding is not very visible from outside, and because the door has to be closed when the wind blows, one cannot see if the restaurant is open.   I found the lighting inside to be too bright, and missed the Italian music on our second visit.    The food is functionally presented, without any attempt at decorating it or the plate.  There is ample parking outside at night. I’ll be back for the Italian hospitality.

Il Cappero Italian Restaurant, 3 Barrack Street, Cape Town.   Tel (021) 461-3168.  www.ilcappero.co.za  Monday – Friday lunch 12h00 – 14h30, and Monday – Saturday dinner.

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