One of the many clich+¬s you may hear from an Italian is the one about Italian food being much more than pizza and pasta. This is true: so much so than even Jamie Olivier, Anthony Bourdain’s bitch, took time out to prove this during a schmaltzy TV-series and his umpteenth cookbook.
I had the pleasure of experiencing the diversity of Italian cuisine last week during a memorable supper at Zucca, an Italian eatery in Kloof Street’s less Nigerian-infested region. Case in point: aim for an Italian joint if you suffer from Nigerian Phobia, as even Africa’s biggest hoods go pale at the thought of trying to tackle someone wearing a black shirt and gold chain called Fabio, Marco or Lorenzo.
In any event, a number of colourful characters joined a table presided over by Boela Gerber, cellarmaster at Groot Constantia. Those present included hot wine-writing property and www.grape.co.za pin-up girl Jeanri-Tine van Zyl, business journalist, winemaking student, property developer and bull-dog breeder Riaan Smit and the charming Mery Uribe from South Africa’s oldest Estate. Maryke Visagie, the Sharon Stone of the Cape’s wine scene, was also present, as was her hubby Jacques and Groot Constantia MD Jean Naud+¬.
The wines were splendid, as usual,,with a particularly lovely Sauvignon Blanc 2008 and a 2007 Shiraz leading the way.
But let’s stick to the food. And you could hardly not, as there was some loud owner-manager type ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ more Parow than Parma ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ shouting that we “shouldn’t eat to much ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+ëcause there’s a lot still to come!” and “this is the way we eat in Italy, you know ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ hey!”
After some canap+¬s in the porno-style lounge – all white synthetic leather and Perroni babe posters – we moved upstairs. On the table a salad greeted us in uninspired greenness. There were some leaves, anchovies and some gooey white stuff, which I dearly hoped was cheese.
This was followed by a couple of just-baked and tasty flatbreads with a plate of salami that was freshly purchased from Pick ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+ën Pay or Sergio’s Stunning Meat Shop.
At this stage the wine was flowing and our table was showing the Italians that when it came to dolce vita and a bit of hanging out, we Dutchmen can roll with the best. The only table to steal our thunder was one occupied by a couple of small oily guys and a few women who looked as they had been freshly plucked from their gym equipment and hauled through an Edgar’s make-up department. These dames were making all the noise, and at one stage ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ when he had stopped shouting ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ asked the owner/manager if he would be so kind as to auction-off our friend Boela.
Well, if you’d seen the skinny Mediterranean rats they were with, you wonder why the Amazons didn’t just get up and steal Boela from us. Fortunately, Boela held his ground – the commitments of a dedicated winemaker in the presence of a few journalists are sometimes quite remarkable.
The pasta course was fresh and good gnocchi doused with tomato, pesto and blue cheese sauce. As there were still two courses to follow, I held back, but what I had was really good.
For the next dish we were offered a choice of kingklip of chicken pizzaiola. Seeing as everyone ordered the fish, I went for the pizzaiola. And boy, did I get to miss out.
The fish dish was something to behold. I mean, if one does really feast with your eyes you would have been a foie gras goose just looking at this.
Each fish eater got half a pineapple. The pineapple had a crusty thermidor look to it. After staring at the dish, Jeanri, who was sitting next to me dug in. I just had to grab a spoon and check out what was going on in the belly of the pineapple.
The pineapple had been hollowed out. In the space, three layers greeted the diner.
First was mashed potato, an obvious complement to the pineapple flavours still residing in the shell. On top of the delicious pineapply mashed potato, a pile of shredded kingklip of the poached-boiled-chunky kind lay in wait. And to top it all off, a b+¬chamel sauce swamped the dish, which had been parked under the grill to give it golden crust.
A cute touch was the leaves of the pineapple still being attached, which made the dish look like a Afro-haired tortoise lying on its back wondering what the white stuff is doing on its stomach. Jeanri dubbed the dish Bravo Anana, although Pina Fiasco could also suffice.
Not that my pizzaiola was devoid of interest. Throwing convention out of the window in Italo Gallileo-style, Zucca’s interpretation of this dish saw it transformed into a pile of roast potatoes garnished with a modest piece of chicken breast that had passed through a saucer of tomato paste.
This all lead to more laughter and merriment among the party, whilst we obviously all hid our secret envy at not being born related to the Land of the Boot and the fishy pineapple.
E Louw Joubert
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