You should be familiar by now with my philosopy of "earning" your dinner. Basically, the theory here is that if I know I'm eating out - and I want to really chuck health out the window for the night - I train extra-hard that day. This leaves me without any guilt and I tuck into whatever I want. Sometimes dinner is disappointing and I am left pretty pissed off for having trained so hard! Sometimes it is well worth it though and I can go completely overboard. It's like an eating frenzy. Not pretty. I order more than I actually need and I end up trying everyone else's food. A recent trip to Mezzaluna with The Gym Nazi and The Pilates Pirate was one of those nights. There was a lot of food. Let's see what it involved.
Firstly, let's get into authentic Italian food. In South Africa we have a perception that an Italian restaurant must be red-and-white tablecloths and tomato sauce pastas. Not so. Proper Italian cooking is rustic and simple with most dishes only using two or three ingredients. The Italians love to let ingredients speak for themselves and don't put too much focus on presentation. A few chopped herbs scattered over a dish is pretty much it. The food at Mezzaluna is definitely in this category. No little bowls of garlic. No spaghetti and meatballs. No Italian flags or Juventus jerseys and absolutely no sign of Ferrari memorabilia. Thank goodness.
The decor is simple. Picture windows are cut into stone and facebrick walls and there are a few black-and-white prints. There really isn't any need for decor though because the host and owner, Jimmy, doesn't give you much time to look around. We were whisked off to our table and immediately brought some food "jut to try and see if you like it." Veal with lemon and vinegar, grilled marrows, eggplant lasagne, a mixed salad. It just kept on coming. Finally we were able to order starters and I went with a smoked tuna carpaccio which was superb. Delicate, clean flavours offset by quite strong, smoky fish. Beautiful. The others went for melon and parma ham which, although not winning any creativity prizes, definitely would've been in the running for an award for portion size.
By now, Jimmy was sitting at our table and the wine was flowing like...well...wine. He noticed my camera and by the number of questions assumed I was a food writer. I said I was 'dabbling'. Well, f*ck me, before I could say crazy Italian he had me in his kitchen photographing his chefs in action. What followed in the next few minutes was a series of the worst photogrpahs ever taken. By anyone. Anywhere. Of anything. The guys were having a good time though and I obliged, snapping away. Jimmy hand-fed me some more tuna which is about as sexy as it sounds. He seemed to have forgotten the fact that I just had it.
Annnnyway, I was eventually allowed back to my table in time for our mains. This is what I had been waiting for. Jimmy's signature dish. Sea-urchin pasta. Not since the first days of Madame Zingara's chocolate-chilli steak have I looked forward to a specific dish like this one. I must say, the flavours were memorable. Intense. Salty. Gutsy. Maybe too rich? I could've done with a squeeze of lemon or some chopped parsley to lighten it a touch. The pasta itself was delicious and clearly handmade. (All the pasta served at Mezzaluna is). The Gym Nazi seemed less convinced and it is definitely a dish that some people will love, while others hate. The Princess and The Pilates Pirate both had ravioli stuffed with a mixture of beef, pork and lamb. It came with a basil sauce and was good but not amazing. For me it was a touch under-seasoned.
Dessert time is when the wheels came off. It was a blur but I remember a baked ricotta cheesecake with chocolate bits (Perfectly cooked with a golden crust). There was a flash of tiramisu (outstanding texture) and also a chocolate tart in there somewhere. Look, the plates were clean when we were done. I have a feeling the coffee would've been the real deal but honestly by that stage we were way too full.
Mezzaluna is popular with the lunchtime crowd and has only recently opened its doors for dinner. Jimmy explained that he now "has no life". He better get used to it because this place is way too good to stay under the radar for long.
Check it out for yourselves at 16 Loop Street or call them on (021) 421-6391.
Absolutely agree and one of my favourite restaurants. Jimmy is a fantastic host, always there always smiling and the food is equally consistent and full of life and flavour. Only problem - the place is just so adictive!
Mezzaluna is indeed one of the rare Italian places in Cape Town that makes me proud to be an Italian!
Have to agree on your description on the sea-urchin pasta - feelings towards it are definitely polarised! I am still however glad to have tried it given all the hype. We also tried the risotto milanese with bone marrow - the rice was a little overdone and there was a bit too much salt.
I will definitely be back soon. The fact that Jimmy is so good almost allows him a bit of flexibility with his food standards which can be a bit of a problem I guess.
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