Let me start with a disclaimer upfront - I am not the best cook or even come close to being one.
But I am a picky eater. Be that as it may, I do enjoy exploring different cuisines. So when the opportunity came to dine at an Italian restaurant, I welcomed it and looked forward to eating a traditional ravioli.
Having been to Giorgio Nava’s award-winning 95 Keerom in Cape Town’s CBD which opened in 2003, I was looking forward to trying the food at his recently-opened eatery 95 at Parks, an Italian bar and lounge in Constantia.
Knowing Nova is passionate about his authentic Italian roots, from culture to cuisine, I expected only the best in Italian food.
On arrival, my colleague and I were escorted to a sunny conservatory.
Our cheerful waiter was dressed Italian style, with an apron around her waist. “Don’t be shy to take your taste buds on a new adventure,” she encouraged us.
We began our culinary journey with crispy baby calamari tubes.
As a seafood lover, I was impressed.
For our main course, we were ushered to the main house, which had a Cape Dutch setting.
Classic jazz was playing in the background.
We opted for a cooling cocktail made of strawberries and crushed ice, but an impressive wine collection offers local and international Italian red wines ranging from R320 to R1300 a bottle. The most popular are said to be the Steenberg Nebbiolo and Terra del Capo Sangiovese.
There are two menu options, both heavily inspired by Italian cuisine. One had a variety of dishes that included pasta and fish; another named
the Italian Experience, offered the full-on Italian experience. I opted for that.
First on offer was I’insalata Caprese with burrata Mozzarella: a salad of tomatoes, anchovies, capers, olives, fresh basil and extra virgin oil. It was plated perfectly, and I could taste the freshness and tell that the tomatoes had just been picked from the garden.
Next was la polenta fritta - fried corn polenta with cheese source. It was lovely, but if you are not a cheese lover the cheesiness might be little overwhelming. It felt like I was biting into a cheese-flavoured sponge, the cheese oozing through.
I also had home-made ravioli filled with slow-cooked Karoo lamb shoulder with sage butter and Parmesan. It’s one of the best ravioli dishes I have tasted by far, the sage butter balancing the whole meal.
At this stage I was only halfway through the meal thank goodness portions were small.
Next up was the butternut ravioli with ricotta, topped with sage butter and more Parmesan.
The last plate was la bistecca morbida - flank steak served with béarnaise sauce and spinach. The spinach was overcooked for me as I like my veggies a bit raw.
However, I was very impressed with the steak, it was nicely cooked and juicy, medium to rare, just how I like it.
My colleague ordered la sogliola al vino bianco, a pan-fried sole with white wine sauce and thin-cut fries. She enjoyed her fish and said the chips were just about right and crispy.
When the gelato (ice cream) came, it was a single scoop served with sweetish crumbs. I was glad I didn’t miss the opportunity for a sweet treat.
What made the experience unforgettable is that we met the chef, Nava. He came to ask us about our meals and passionately explained the process of making each dish we had. As they say in Italian, “Ho mangiato bene! (I ate well)”.
* Visit 95 at Parks at 114 Constantia Main Road. Call 021 761 0247.