Bodyboard down the Olifants, sleep in a bedouin tent, hike a pristine trail
Isola Restaurant in Cape Town
An authentic taste of Italy in the heart of the Mother City’s CBD
While there are plenty of eateries in Cape Town that boast an Italian focus, few can lay claim to the sort of authenticity presented by brothers Alberto and Matteo Crovetto’s CBD-based Isola restaurant.
Appropriately named (Isola means ‘island’ in English), this recently launched haunt – it opened in early March 2014 – is a little pocket of Italy in the heart of the city centre, and if it wasn’t for the hustle and bustle of the classically Capetonian Wale Street that surrounds it, the charming haunt could very easily trick you into thinking that you’ve stumbled into a quaint back alley in Rome or Venice.
The fire engine-red Vespa at the entrance, the tiny Mediterranean courtyard that beckons out back and the impassioned waving of hands in the kitchen (many of the staff members are Italian born) are all elements that lend themselves to the easy, breezy, ‘my house is your house’ feel typical of trattoria.
“We try to be like a family for our guests so that they feel at home,” sums up co-owner Alberto, who moved from Milan to the Mother City in early 2014 to start up the spot with his sibling. “We don’t offer a bed, but we do give all the rest.”
Like any bona fide Italian restaurant though, the emphasis here is firmly on the fare, and the cuisine is just as genuine as the vibe. Though not a trained cook, Alberto brings all the little secrets he learnt as a young boy in his grandmother’s kitchen to the table, and he’s backed by two professional chefs that have come all the way from Genoa bearing intimate knowledge of their homeland’s culinary scene (one has over 35 years of experience in the industry).
“We focus on putting the real taste of Italy into our food,” says the energetic co-founder, adding, “From the pasta to the pizza to the pesto, everything is made by us, here, on site.”
The highlight on the small, simple menu is most certainly the wood-fired pizza, which differs from almost anything else you’ll find in the city. While the toppings are fairly basic, the bases are deliciously thick and every pie is sold by the slice, with one portion apparently being sufficient for a full meal. Aside from these bready treats, the little dining space also whips up lasagne, salads, gnocchi with pesto or four cheeses, Milan-style veal cutlets, thin-based focaccine (mini focaccia) in a variety of flavours (think mortadella and egg or lard and rosemary) and a few more traditional items.
Though there are a number of quality local wines on offer from esteemed estates like Kleine Zalze or La Motte, guests can also opt to embrace the European atmosphere with a typical pre-dinner Italian cocktail, such as an Aperol Spritz, or a post-meal shot of homemade limoncello or mandarinetto (a liqueur made from mandarin oranges).
And after a few of these tipples and a couple of bites, no doubt, visitors will find themselves truly lost in the coastal lifestyle, floating far, far away from the rise and fall of Cape Town’s CBD – it’s simply that sort of space.
Tip: Look out for Isola’s great meal specials. At lunchtime, the restaurant is offering a pizza slice and beer or soft drink for R45, and over dinner, guests can get three focaccine and a bottle of sparkling wine or Rosé for R190. Plus, Wi-fi is always free!
The Bill: Prices are really reasonable at Isola, and diners can easily enjoy a good meal for under R65 here. Lunch options swing between R35 and R50, focaccine starters cost between R25 and R40 and evening dishes range from R35 to R150.
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 12pm – 3pm (lunch); 6pm – 11pm (dinner)
72 Wale Street (between Bree and Buitengracht streets) | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 422 0800
Find out about other Italian restaurants in Cape Town in the Eating Out section of our site.
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