“Cape Town didn’t need another fine dining restaurant,” says Guido Brambilla, with a smile, as we chat about his decision to revamp Bocca on Bree Street, Cape Town’s bustling restaurant boulevard.
He’s not wrong. With the likes of fancy Salsify and Fyn opening up in the past few months there’s certainly no shortage of places to drop a grand — perhaps two — on dinner.
But Bocca is different. Since it first opened in 2014, it’s been for the locals. It’s a place for date nights and long-promised get-togethers; after-work drinks and insanely good pizza. And despite the new owners, new look, and new menu, those basics remain the same.
“Urban Italian” cuisine is what’s on offer, with Guido in the kitchen and his wife Adnana looking after the front-of-house. Between them, they boast decades of experience in high-end hotels and fine-dining restaurants, stretching from Guido’s hometown of Milan to Oman to the Caribbean. “After eight years in Bermuda, we were looking for a change,” says Adnana of their decision to relocate to South Africa.
Cape Town seems to love what the duo has done with Bocca. For starters, the décor has had a welcome overhaul, from feature walls and leather banquettes to counter seating out on the pavement terrace. Guido has also tweaked the menu in all the right places.
The small-plate Bites compress classic Italian flavours into small flavour bombs. The polpo of local octopus and baby potatoes is the Mediterranean in a bowl and, trust me — you’ll want to order two portions of the deep-fried zucchini scapece with garlic and mint.
Guido uses imported Rummo pasta — “This is the best durum wheat pasta you can get in South Africa,” he says — for the Grains selection of pasta and risotto. The cassiopipa is the standout here, with Guido giving this Venetian seafood ragù a local twist.
Bocca has long been famous for its pizza, wood-fired at 230°C. Guido has scaled these down to more manageable pizzette, ideal for sharing around the table. The imported Acunto oven is also put to good use in the hearty bowls of Arrosti: the pork ribs, lamb legs, and angus briskets slow-braised overnight in the dying embers.
The wine list remains small yet engaging, with a compact selection of boutique Cape estates. Don’t ignore the cocktails though, whether the excellent Milano-Cape Town made with Adi Badenhorst’s Caperitif, or a non-alcoholic Dolce Vita of fresh basil, lime, and lemonade. Start with one of those, and see where the evening takes you.
- From the February edition of Wanted, 2019.