Café del Sol ticks all the foodie boxes of taste, appearance and soul to create an authentic touch of Italy right here in Jozi’s northern suburbs
After 12 years, chances are you’ve had the pleasure of dining at the original Café del Sol in Olivedale or Café del Sol Botanico – that, or you definitely know someone who’s said ‘you have to go there’. It’s true – you do, otherwise, your appreciation of Italian cooking isn’t complete. The word ‘cooking’ here is quite deliberate. Yes, it’s fine dining but it also feels like home … or what ‘home’ would be if your mama raised you to roll gnocchi when other kids your age were rolling Play Dough. Luciana Treccani raised her children (Chiara and Ryan) to do things with heart, and that permeates every aspect of the Café del Sol legacy. It’s about love, it’s about family and it’s always, always about the food.
This year will see the family offering a variety of cooking classes. The first takes the form of monthly demonstrations in the Botanico show kitchen. It will showcase a three-course lesson on signature Café del Sol dishes, followed by lunch. Twelve spots a class allow for the 50 per cent hands-on cooking/50 per cent demo blend. Demonstrations for the Signature Series can also be booked for a group or private occasion outside the monthly events.
In our demo, we began with a starter of the lightest limoncello risotto, followed by silky gnocchi drenched in creamy Gorgonzola sauce. Luciana and Chiara are veritable mines of knowledge when it comes to tips on Italian cooking. ‘Semolina isn’t absorbed by the dough, which is why it’s perfect to coat the gnocchi pieces – it keeps them separate but is never absorbed, then is pulled away when it boils so it doesn’t affect the flavour,’ Chiara explains. That’s just one of the many tricks we picked up during our demo lesson. Decadent Nutella cheesecake rounded off the meal, all of which was paired with an excellent, citrusy Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc. ‘We also offer wine pairing events with dishes that aren’t on our menu, as well as gin and chocolate pairings.’
Cooking is our passion and we want people to taste it in the food we create every day
For patrons looking for a more hands-on, cook-the-whole-dish-yourself vibe, you needn’t look further than Italian masterclasses with the Flavour Academy, run by Café del Sol. An evening is spent following recipes (with their guidance, naturally) at your own kitchen station in the Good Food Studio at Pick n Pay on Nicol. ‘In 2020, we’re keen on a Seasonal Series – summer, autumn, winter and spring with recipes and ingredients which showcase the seasonal freshness that’s such a feature of Italian cooking,’ Chiara says. Personal attention is important, so only 24 places are available at each session. We love this idea for a date night with a difference and they’re sure to have something sexy planned for Valentine’s Day…
When it comes to the recipes you learn at these demos or masterclasses, you can’t get anything more authentically Italian. Chiara learned how to cook from Luciana who, in turn, was taught by her Nonna, who was born and bred in the Lombardy region of Italy. You walk away with these family recipes so you can re-create them in the comfort of your own kitchen – but it won’t stop you going back for more! For readers who are less into cooking and prefer a good tipple, the Landmark Bar adjoins Café del Sol Botanico and you can take part in a mixology course taught by bartenders (who can flair in ways you’ve never seen before), then drink your gorgeous creations – after indulging in Calabria-style pizza. ‘The beauty of Italian food is you can eat it every single day and have something different at every meal – yes, it’s pizza and pasta, but there are so many other dishes as well. We do a salmon dish with black sesame seeds and avocado mash which is healthy, but not at the expense of beautiful taste,’ Luciana says. The restaurant blends the traditional with contemporary cooking styles, creating a one-of-a-kind experience.
Perhaps most exciting of all, Chiara is toying with the idea of combining her stint as a travel agent with her love of cooking by introducing Bespoke Culinary Adventures. ‘With our cooking lessons, everyone keeps saying they want to go to Italy and cook, eat and enjoy Italian life, so I thought why not combine a trip to Italy with a blend of some cooking? I’d love to start with the Amalfi region, but I’d also like to move outside Italy to places such as Bordeaux in France or Morocco…’ These Bespoke Culinary Adventures round out the Café del Sol family’s trifecta of fresh offerings in 2020.
If travelling isn’t on your agenda this year, all you need do is head to Bryanston or Olivedale and book a table at Café del Sol for a localised trip to Italy. ‘We want people to feel the love we felt when my mom was cooking for us and teaching us everything she knew,’ Chiara says. ‘Café del Sol is about cooking with love and giving our clients food that fills them with more than just food. It’s about love; it’s about soul. When you can tick the box for taste, tick the box for appearance and tick the box for soul, then you have magic. Cooking is our passion and we want people to see that passion, feel that passion and taste it in the food we create every day.’
Follow Café del Sol and stay up to date with its events @cafedelsolsa (both Facebook and Instagram) or email [email protected].