‘Giulio wanted a blue-and-white café, and I just said no,’ says designer Michael Chandler of Chandler House, who recently completed the interiors of Giulio’s Café, in Loop Street, Cape Town. The small eatery is bright, light and elegant in an understated sort of way. It’s only once you’re seated at one of the vintage-looking tables that you begin to notice the quirky details: ceramic festoons that feature proteas and sugar birds; a large brass olive wreath suspended from the ceiling; a chandelier made out of pasta pieces; and a collection of brass objects scattered across the room.
‘It’s about breaking it down into its simplest components and redefining the space. It was really fun.’ – Michael Chandler
‘A blue-and-white café is very me,’ explains Michael (pictured below), ‘but I wanted to get it right for him. He is always dressed like an Italian with loafers and a white tailored shirt, so I wanted to pick up on that. It’s a 21st Century interpretation of an Italian restaurant.’
Much like the decor, which hints at an Italian heritage without the obligatory red-and-white chequered table cloths, the food pays homage to chef and owner Giulio Loreggian’s family tree. In fact, many of the recipes are old family recipes that Giulio learnt from his mamma.
Not surprisingly, pasta takes its rightful place as the main ingredient on the lunch menu. In addition to the classic pasta dishes, there is also a daily selection of salads at the mangia table, generous panini, and berry-inspired desserts. Giulio concedes that the restaurant isn’t strictly Italian, thanks to a few tweaks such as the addition of white wine and cherry tomatoes to the Aglio e Oglio.
‘I love watching people laugh at the pasta chandelier.’ – Michael Chandler
‘My philosophy is that food should be simple and fresh,’ explains Giulio, who spent a year working at one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants in London. ‘That’s not me at all. That’s not the way my family eats. I’ve got so many favourite dishes — it just depends on my mood on the day. Today I am craving my chicken livers; yesterday it was Napoletana.’
‘There’s an Italian card game called scopa, and one of the cards, the settebello (the beautiful seven) has a picture of seven coins. I turned these seven coins into plates on the wall, and echoed the motif in the button back detail of the chairs.’ – Michael Chandler
Family is important to the 27-year-old chef and this is reflected in his hopes for the intimate café.
‘I want it to be somewhere people can come in, relax and feel special. It’s a small space, but no one actually feels claustrophobic, and that’s exactly what we want. We have a lot of regulars who spend the entire day here working; they feel like we are family and I feel like they are my family.’