The food at Umhlanga’s newest Italian eatery, Strada Cucina, is fresh, uncomplicated and packed with flavour – and the atmosphere laid back, unpretentious and easy. And that’s exactly what the owners, brothers Greg and Rowan Clelland, were hoping to achieve.
The décor is tasteful and trendy and you can’t help but feel like you would be as comfortable in a pair of shorts and slops as you would in your work suit at lunch time, or a dress and heels for date night. It’s just that kind of place.
You also can’t help but know, almost instinctively when you arrive, that they are going to serve you really good coffee and fantastic food. And that’s exactly what they do.
Passionate about food, particularly of the Italian variety, Greg is no stranger to the restaurant industry. He has opened, owned and worked in a number of restaurants around the world, including spending time in Italy, where he honed his Italian cuisine skills.
When he returned to South Africa in 2010, Greg assisted with the opening of Stretta Café in Hillcrest. Two years later he and a partner started one of Durban’s first ‘food trucks’, selling tasty chicken done in a variety of ways. It was called Afro’s.
Not long afterwards Greg took a leave of absence to focus on his family, eventually going back to Stretta. In 2015 he started his outside catering company, Peck-Eish, which caters at a number of big and small events around KZN. “We have been the official Ballito Pro caterer for the past three years, where we make up to 600 meals a day,” says Greg. He is also a partner in the Red Rooster eatery at the Shongweni Market and does catering at weddings, corporate events and functions.
While Greg is the creative ‘foodie’, his brother Rowan handles the business side of things. A former East Coast Radio deejay, and owner of the well-known events company, Big Nite Out Productions, Rowan knows a thing or two about running businesses and keeping customers happy.
“Rowan has always wanted us to open a restaurant together on the North Coast and I’ve always had an idea in my mind of what it would look like,” says Greg. “We looked at lots of places, but when we walked into this space, we just knew it would work.”
From the black and white décor with subtle splashes of red, to the wood-fired oven and open-plan kitchen, Greg knew exactly what he wanted the restaurant to look and feel like. “We want this to be an unpretentious place where you can enjoy a comfortable vibe and some really good, simple food that is full of flavour and not overpriced.”
With lots of help and encouragement from their wives, the Clelland brothers opened Strada Cucina on 2 August, just six weeks after finding the venue.
While the menu is mostly Italian, Greg says there is something to suit most tastes . . . with a little Italian twist! The main focus though is on freshness, quality and flavour. “We have a small freezer for ice and ice cream, and that’s it. Everything is made from scratch and delivered fresh daily.”
In true Italian style, most of the dishes feature only a few ingredients, allowing each one to ‘speak for itself’. The breakfast menu includes all-time favourites like Italian Fritatas, Oats with butter, honey and berries and omelettes. For a lighter meal you can order a Caprese salad, carpaccio, a burger or a toasted wrap or sandwich. The wood-fired pizzas and the pastas are affordable (most are under R100), and feature just a few ingredients. The Putanesce (spaghetti with Napoli, olives, capers and anchovies), Pizza Lorena (Napoli, mozzarella, Cotto ham, mushrooms, onions) and Strada (Napoli, mozzarella, bacon, avo, danish feta) are all musts!
Grill-lovers can look forward to a delectable Baby Chicken, which has been wood-oven roasted and finished with garlic butter or peri peri, served with rustic chips. The Veal Limone is pan fried and served with creamed spinach and the Bistecca (a 200g rib eye char-grilled with flaked sea salt and black pepper, topped with garlic butter) is served with rustic chips and a rocket salad. Dessert and really great coffee (made by in-house barista, Calvin) are also served all day.
Seating just over 50 people inside (with the capacity to spill over onto the pavement, alfresco style), Strada Cucina is the ideal spot for a quick business meeting or place to grab a takeaway lunch. It’s also a great place to host a small event or celebration, or simply relax and enjoy a glass of wine and true Italian-style hospitality.
Text: Leah Shone