It was time to go in, right to the heart of the Stellenbosch Mafia. Guy who wrote the book about them, Pieter du Toit, well he reckons the local mobsters hang out at a joint named De Volkskombuis, pretty hard to pronounce for two New York wiseguys like me and Frankie the Juice. But nothing a little google-translate ain’t sorting out. Volks the kombuis and go volks yourselves, too.
As a building De Volkskombuis cuts a slick cultural figure in downtown Stellenbosch, all white and colonial like. Inside it comes pretty swanky, lotsa revamped wooden antiques and bright pictures and crystal, pretty much like the Don’s vacation home in the Hamptons I visited when I had to go do the whack job on that fruit from the Verlucci family.
The Juice wants to sit outside, it being a sunny day and all, but I gotta scope out the place as al-fresco can be al-deado if us kinda guys go and park where somebody can getta shot at us. But ain’t nobody be whacking anyone chowing at De Volkskombuis on account of no real surrounding high spots from where to get a shot in. And them steak-knives on the table ain’t doin’ much, except maybe to cut a few flowers for the cute waitress serving us.
We get a glass of L’Ormarins Cap Classique, rosé, and check out the menu. The Juice, however, is pretty uptight, and reckons we was led on a wild mob chase, as just like the other places we checked-out so far, there’s being no sign of any Cosa Nostra activity here at De Volkskombuis either. I tell The Juice to chill, enjoy the bubbly wine and think of all the merry whacking we can do back in Brooklyn when we get back.
De Volkskombuis makes a play for some traditional South African food, though it ain’t looking much different to what I’m used to back in The Big Apple. Appetisers run to risotto, some mussels and ribs from sheep, and I go for the Caesar Salad while The Juice orders the risotto, which is strange as his current squeeze, Appollonia, cooks a mean risotto marinara when she ain’t casing the salami.
The wine is cool and sparkly, and things are pretty relaxed, us checking out the huge lawn outside and feeling the breeze tug at my cravat. It’s getting pretty warm, but we can’t take our jackets off ’cause of the pieces we’re packing on the side.
Waitress brings our appetisers and the salad looks a bit over-dressed, but it’s got a neat poached egg lying on-top that gets my juices going. The Juice’s risotto is cooked with blue cheese and broccoli, and as he eats the first fork, The Juice nods in approval announcing the rice perfectly cooked. When he dabs at his eyes with the napkin, I know The Juice ain’t lying as the food’s reminding him of Appollonia, and we been on the road for a month now.
My salad is kinda okay, ’though I could have used a bit more anchovies. Likes to remind me of all the guys I gave the opportunity of sleeping with the fishes.
The sparkling wine is over, so I gets us a bottle of red wine, having done some reading about Pinotage, a wine that was invented right here in South Africa by crossing two different red grapes, and it sounds all interesting. Zonnebloem Pinotage from the 2017 year is poured, and the bloody colour of the wine and the smell of spice and Italian sausage gets me and The Juice into the mood for some main courses.
I see a few traditional things on the menu, like chicken pie and some stuff called bobotie, which apparently is like a lasagne but yellow and Indianish. The rest of the menus is hamburgers and pizza – would ya’ believe – and some stuff from the grill. Which, the latter that is, sounds tempting due to the smooth, soft flavours of this here Zonnebloem Pinotage.
Me, I order a rump done medium rare, while The Juice goes for a pizza. “Whatsa matter with you, a New Yorker ordering pizza?” I ask The Juice, till he shows me the pizza he requested. It is called a Pieke Pizza, whatever that may mean, and is topped with asparagus, some kind of pepper called peppadew and some spinach. Weird, but this is a foreign country after all.
We sip wine, listen to some birdsong and wish to god some mobster would show up to provide a little action. No Stellenbosch Mafia at De Volkskombuis is like not being able to find a dead body in the Hudson River or watching a Scorsese movie without Bob de Niro: unfathomable.
Our food comes, and if the waitress did not exude so much of a sensitive nature, I would have had to ask her where the griller was so I could go an’ whack him. The steak looks as dull and listless as a Donald Trump hairpiece on dandruff duty, and lies staring at me with the kind of unappetising look I got used to when dating girls from the Convent in Queens. Some good-looking golden-brown fries, though. But the blue cheese sauce I ordered with the meat has the consistency of melted pencil-eraser, just not as tasty.
What a pizza, though, The Juice has. Base is looking a bit on the thin side, bordering on one of those flat things the Indians and Mexicans eat, but on top of the pizza he’s got lotsa tomato. Thing about us wiseguys, we like lotsa tomato on the pizza. The tomato and cheese is given extra colour with the olives and the peppadews and asparagus. The Juice reckons the taste is exciting, although he ain’t giving me a slice as the pizza is a bit on the small side.
My steak tastes as boring as it looks, and I am missing the taste of blood and ripe beef and the feel of the fire used to cook the meat. That life-affirming texture of a good char-grill. But it ain’t happening.
But I apply my mind to the wine, the Pinotage, the Zonnebloem and already contemplating taking a few cases back to the City. Perhaps get the Don to talk to someone in South Africa about handing over the exclusive rights to Pinotage to the Family.
We could just make him an offer he can’t refuse.
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