Osteria Tarantino is what you could call a true cucina: small, unassuming and devoid of pizza ovens, pickled garlic or boxed lasagne.
It is the answer to authentic Italian eating that Cape Town has been looking for. Run by Enrico Tarantino – yes, he is a distant relation of the cult film director – and Michele Dal Lago, Osteria Tarantino is situated just behind the Cape Quarter Lifestyle Centre and offers an inviting interior as well as seating out on the sunlit terrace. The intimate eatery accommodates only 40 diners and is modestly furnished with reclaimed pallet tables, bagged brickwork and mustard-yellow booth seating. While the rustic wooden tables are left bare during the day, they are dressed for dinner in crisp, white tablecloths – adorned simply with olive oil, balsamic reduction and coarse-ground seasoning. A fireplace matches the atmosphere for warmth, while Enrico’s familial air ensures a homely experience that is outshone only by the food.
Specialising in traditional fare that embraces the concept of less is more, Osteria Tarantino is a must-visit for anyone who appreciates a carefully curated (chalkboard) menu, with dishes such as veal meatballs, vitello tonnato – beef sliced thinly and topped with a creamy tuna and caper sauce – and an antipasti platter. But, like any true cucina, Osteria Tarantino has its specialities: the burrata is luxuriously creamy and arrives on a bed of rocket, sun-dried tomatoes and wafer-thin prosciutto, while the ‘Four Ps’ is a menu constant – homemade pappardelle pasta in a tomato-cream sauce rich with pancetta, porcini mushroom and Parmesan cheese. You can also savour the same sauce with spinach-and-ricotta-stuffed ravioli.
For mains, we enjoyed the Gorgonzola gnocchi – this understatedly decadent dish is made from scratch and features pillowy potato dumplings in a creamy blue-cheese sauce, topped with a grating each of Parmesan, fresh garlic and lemon zest – the latter complimenting the richness of the sauce with its zingy brightness. Dessert arrived in the form of Michele’s famed tiramisu – a highly recommended and enjoyable manner of finishing off the meal.
Understandably, Osteria Tarantino is very popular, so booking is essential. Call 076-505-1771; 125A Waterkant Street, Cape Town.