Magica Roma Restaurant. 8 Central Square, Pinelands. Tel: 021-531-1489
It doesn’t take much to look good in Pinelands. This dreary enclave of the South African WASP is not quite known as the life of the Cape Town party and is ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ perhaps intentionally so ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ well removed from the buzz of Peninsula life. A Tupperware party is a highlight in this suburbs calendar, and an invitation to a tasting of herbal teas is deemed as being delightfully decadent. The residents look as they do all their clothing shopping at Ackermann’s, and have managed to procure old stock circa 1987.
No wonder the Dutch Cultural Centre is situated in Pinelands. Herring with onion salad, anyone?
A couple of Italians obvious recognised the potential the area’s lack of gusto and excitement, this being quite a few years back now. They opened Magica Roma, a popular Italian restaurant that attracts an interesting and diverse collection of patrons. From pensioned couples awaiting the next bout of angina to tax-dodging corporate heavyweights; from journalists seeking a boozy lunch to a troop of bored housewives discussing knitting patterns…Magica Roma is the place to be if you feel the urge to seek some action in Pinelands.
To its credit, Magica Roma is run by real Italians. Here there are none of those greasy model wannabes speaking in faux Italian accents frequently found serving in Sea Point pasta joints, the kind of guys who wouldn’t know the difference between Venice and Vasco. No, Magica Roma is staffed by impeccably mannered Italians, with a tangible passion for playing hosts and ensuring patrons eat well in a space they feel comfortable in.
I stopped by the other day with Dr Malan and two blondes to discuss the standards of certain recent Afrikaans translations of Dante and to drink some Italian wine. What began as a pit-stop en route to the Italian Cultural Commission, turned into a pleasant afternoon ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ as visits to Magica Roma tend to do.
As the host, I dictated the wine orders. These were a Zaccagnini Bianco and a Soave Classico, slightly oxidative wines without the pronounced whack of fruit found in South African whites. They were cold and dry, and very good.
For an entre+¬ I ordered Magica Roma’s traditional starter platter for the table. This consisted of caprese (avocado added to the traditional mozzarella and tomato), some prosciutto, grilled calamari tubes and a couple of paper thin slices of eggplant.
It is a comfortable platter to share, and the combinations were subtle without any one flavour overpowering the other. Calamari and prosciutto are most delightful partners and I had great fun rolling up the thin slices of ham and stuffing them into a calamari tube. Being in Pinelands, this is akin to a contact sport.)
Main courses consist of a list of pastas longer than the waiting list for sleeping tablets at a Pinelands clinic, pizza, seafood and meat.
With underage cow meat being a house speciality, Blonde No 1 and myself settled on some serious veal. She had her dead calf sliced thin, fried and presented on a bed of spinach. I hand the veal saltinbocca, rather a retro dish resembling the Spur’s Cheddamelt combination. Thin escalopes of veal are smothered with ham and mozzarella, and then covered in a mushroom sauce. Served with freshly made chips (none of these pre-cooked abominations here), this dish was satisfying and decadent, and made me regret not having a hang-over.
Dr Malan had a chunk of grilled Cob, which was fresh and perfectly cooked. Blonde No 2 went for a humungous bowl of pasta. A tomato-based tagliatelle boscaiola with meat and vegetables. This was a great choice and made me happy: there is just something about a well-build blonde slurping on ribbons of tagliatelle. It’s enough to make Dante re-ignite the inferno.
The red to accompany the mains was a Ripasso Folonari, the strawy, raisin flavours adding a welcoming new dimension to my Cape Blend-infused palate.
We all agree that this restaurant was not going to appear on any Pellegrino list, nor would we want it to. The food is fresh and hot, and there is a lot of it. The experience is comfortable and clean, and the ambience friendly without anyone being overtly familiar in that irritatingly tacky way.
And at least there is one reason to visit Pinelands. Someone should give this place a medal. Or an invitation to the next Tupperware party.
E Louw Joubert
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