Cafe del Sol is a gem of an Italian restaurant situated (surprizingly) in Olivedale. I purposefully didn’t call it a hidden gem because over the past two years it has become extremely popular and not exactly hidden. Once you have eaten here it is easy to see why the restaurant won the award for best Italian restaurant in the 2012 Eat Out Awards.
I feel that Johannesburg has more Italian restaurants than any other type of cuisine. Some are average, a few are good but there are rarely any great ones. Cafe del Sol is definitely one of the great ones. The great quality of ingredients, explosive flavour and unique menu are just a few of the distinguishing elements that sets it apart from the rest.
Both my visits were during the lunch service. I prefer sitting in the smaller section which occasionally hosts private functions to the crowded main section of the restaurant. Try to avoid the outside section which has no ambience. The service was impeccable on our first visit and average on our second when we were seated outside.
The white colour scheme with accents of red and grey reflect a modern, clean and minimalistic cafe style. Red can be quite an aggressive colour but I found it to be warm, inviting and symbolic for a love of food. The quotes adorning the walls adds a special touch to the décor.
Bruschetta is not a starter I particularly get excited about mainly because the toppings are generally all the same or boring. That isn’t the case here with five different delicious toppings: tomato salsa, olive tapenade, caramelized onions topped with cream cheese, salmon and lastly strawberries with blue cheese for R78.
If you are looking for a light starter try the Avocado Al-Ritz. Four pan fried queen prawns dressed in a homemade basil pesto mayonnaise, served with avocado, Rosa tomatoes and a zesty Parmesan and rocket salad will have your taste buds thanking you!
Porcini mushroom risotto for R145 has porcini mushrooms, green peas and a drizzle of truffle oil. This was my first time eating risotto and I was quite hesitant to try it as risotto is difficult to get right. I was worried for no reason because the dish was cooked perfectly with plenty of flavour. It was not hard, grainy or sticky. The risotto I have had at two other restaurants after this don’t come close in comparison at all. My first taste of risotto was perfect.
The stuffed calamari for R125 is one of the restaurants signature dishes. Calamari tubes are stuffed with red pepper, green Sevliano olives, capers, ricotta cheese, Grana Padano Parmesan and a touch of chilli served with cappelini pasta mixed with seasonal stir-fry vegetables in a beurre blanc sauce. The dish is definitely expensive for 6/7 (yes it varies) pieces of calamari, but the portion is sufficient enough to not leave you hungry. I love the stuffing which I can best describe as one of those moreish flavours that you don’t want to eat but can’t stop eating at the same time. The flavours are quite strong and do overpower the calamari. When I first had this dish I loved the veggies more than the calamari because the rich, creamy sauce was so bowl licking good. The second time around I didn’t enjoy my dish as the sauce had an exorbitant amount of pepper and tasted strange.
A zesty Limoncello cream sauce pasta with peppery rocket for R95 and six prawns for R90. A mouth wateringly presented bowl of pasta with quality ingredients, tasted just as great as it looked. You can opt to eat the pasta as is or add in extra chicken, calamari or 4/6/8 prawns. I would recommend you try it with the prawns which makes for a good complement and breaks down the richness of the dish. The Limoncello sauce was creamy, delicious and quite lemony. This dish does work out to be quite expensive once you add in any meat, we really liked it but don’t think we would pay the R185 price tag again.
Cafe del Sol is hands down my favourite Italian restaurant. You can expect flavour packed delicious food made with the best ingredients. The food is a little on the pricey side but worth it. Bookings need to be made way in advance as the restaurant is quite popular. Lastly, don’t expect to be served any pizza here!
Ring: 011 704 6493
Hop: Olivedale Corner Shopping Centre, Corner of Olive & President Fouche Roads, Olivedale
Love & Cafes,