When in Rome ... perhaps avoid the pepper sauce

Seafood pasta cooked in olive oil, garlic and chilli.

Seafood pasta cooked in olive oil, garlic and chilli.

Published Jan 7, 2024


Al Firenze

Where: 21 Ray Paul Drive, La Lucia

Open: Daily 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-9.30pm.

Call: 031 572 5559

The Poet wanted a little get together of the bridge set before Christmas, and so a group of us descended on Al Firenze, a popular and authentic Italian trattoria, looking forward to classic Italian fare for a Christmas Eve lunch.

When I arrived, the table was decorated with festive serviettes and little fancy chocolates for afters and lunch was in full swing.

The Poet had ordered starters to share – a good idea – two nice crisp focaccia with feta and olives (R78); artichokes Al Firenze (R92) which are baked in the pizza oven with garlic and Parmesan and mopped up with toast. They were delicious. And melanzane Parmigiana (R96), which had a lovely flavour but too much Mozzarella cheese for my taste.

Other starter options could include prawn tails or snails, gratinated in the pizza oven with either garlic butter or Gorgonzola, mussels cooked in a fresh garlic herb and white wine sauce, or in a heavier cream and wine reduction.

There’s octopus baked with olive oil, garlic, olives and herbs, or sliced porcini mushrooms sautéed with olive oil, garlic and parsley, as well as more conventional takes like chicken livers and calamari. I’ve yet to try the minestrone soup here – something for next time.

Mains might take in a selection of pastas or pizzas, as well as a selection of grills.

Veal is always a favourite here and something I often go for, it not being readily available on many menus. But there are steaks, and lamb cutlets and chicken peri-peri, as well as a selection of linefish.

Whole fish cooked in the pizza oven is something of a speciality here, served with fresh vegetables and sauces. There was one that would feed three people, the fish charged by weight and coming in at about R300 a head. The Poet thought that expensive, although the regular linefish on the specials board was in the same area. There are also some combos, chicken and calamari, chicken and prawns, and a seafood platter.

Prawns gratinated in gorgonzola.

Instead, she tried the fillet steak (R268) with a pepper sauce (R30). The steak was a good piece of meat, nicely grilled but, unfortunately, the sauce was way too salty. They would make her a mushroom sauce instead.

When it eventually arrived, perhaps as a result of the previous complaint, it was beyond bland. I think the kitchen was scared to put anything in it.

Vivek and Heather both went the veal route, Vivek the piccata with a spicy ham and mushroom sauce (R220), and Heather the limone (R210) simply done in a lemon butter. I tried some of Heather’s and knew why it was a favourite. It came with good fries.

Simple and beautiful veal limone with good fries.

Going easy with all the Christmas overeating, Trevor chose a starter of prawn tails with Gorgonzola (R116) cooked in the pizza oven and was very satisfied with them. The Advocate had the Rosette – spinach and egg pasta rolled with cheese and topped with ham and cheese sauce and then baked in the pizza oven (R130). It’s one of his favourites. I never got round to tasting it.

The rosette – spinach pasta wrapped around cheese and topped with ham and a cheese sauce.

When it comes to pasta options, most popular choices are available and fairly reasonably priced – bolognese, Alfredo, carbonara‒ as are lasagne, and ravioli, tortellini and cannelloni. Jeff and I went for the seafood pasta served on linguine (R205). This may come with Napoli sauce, a creamy white wine sauce or a simple aglio olio sauce. We had the latter and I asked the kitchen to put a bite of chilli in the mix. It was nice and fresh – that’s a good olive oil speaking – and the seafood was generous.

I finished with a lovely light and suitably boozy tiramisu (R70) and decent espresso. I think there may have been a chocolate gelato in the mix. Traditional cassata is available here too.

A light tiramisu with a decent espresso.




The Bill: Sorry this got lost in the wash. It came to R450 a head.

Independent on Saturday