FOOD ART: A seasonal vegetable salad.
IT IS not every day that one gets a handwritten letter from an Italian chef, with a personal invitation to experience a true Italian feast.

What’s even more surprising is the location, in Paarl.

Chef Giuseppe Massolini, the owner of Giuseppe’s Catering on Belair Farm in Paarl, invited me and nine friends to experience a true Italian tavolata, or big table, at his “humble pop-up”.

This was different from the other Italian eateries I’ve been to. On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, Giuseppe hosts and caters a lunch or dinner for groups of 10 to 14 guests from his dining room.

There is no set menu, and meals are inspired by what’s in season, while sticking with the Italian theme.

VARIETY: Gnocchi dish.

This concept is based on an Italian tradition of agriturismo, “a small eating place in an agricultural area, using local ingredients as much as possible”, Massolini explained.

My friends and I made the journey to Paarl and arrived hungry as instructed by the chef.

Massolini does not have a liquor licence yet, but guests are welcome to bring their own beverages.

We arrived at noon to find Massolini waiting for us in his front yard. After greeting us in isiXhosa, Afrikaans and Italian, he escorted us into his home, through the kitchen and into the dining room, where a fire was burning and a long table was already laid out.

We were all mesmerised by the interesting art which included paintings of Nelson Mandela, a rakam (Arabic art), the popular crying-boy painting and a portrait of Jesus.

Decadent: The chocolate tart

The most interesting piece was one of a little witch on a broom hanging from the roof that laughs when you clap your hands.

While we were still huddled around the fireplace, Giuseppe served us the first dish.

The spuntino, or snack, was Mozzarella, Edam, Emmental and blue cheese deep-fried and flavoured with garlic, with a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice.

The golden-brown balls were fresh out of the oven. They were crispy on the outside, while the inside was oozing with cheese.

At the table, we were served steaming, home-made bread with butter. Lunch included gnocchi in Pomodoro basil sauce, green beans sautéd in garlic and butter and finished off with grated Parmesan.

The meat dish was a slow-cooked deboned leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, course beef topside, pistachio nuts and crushed garlic filling.

Our first salad was a mixed bowl of seasonal vegetables including sweet potato, butternut, broccoli, roasted sesame seeds and red onion, tossed in white wine vinegar and olive oil dressing.

The second salad comprised grilled aubergines, tomatoes, chunks of local blue cheese and olives in a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing.

Our only complaint with the food was that we couldn’t finish it all. I loved the lamb; the meat was tender and effortless to cut through.

Before dessert, my friends and I spent most of our time taking pictures and wandering around the property as the weather played along.

Dessert was a triple chocolate tart. This recipe is made with short pastry filling; it is a thick chocolate mousse topped with pine cherries. The decadent tart was served with a delicious orange and vanilla-infused custard.

This five-hour feast was worth the 50-minute drive from Cape Town.

Giuseppe’s is at Suid Agter Road, Suider-Paarl, Paarl. To book, call or Whatsapp 084 976 5939.