NO one does soul food quite like the Italians, and no one does Italian quite like nonna. But some of Cape Town’s CBD chefs do get pretty close.
One of the major trends sweeping the Central City right now is the Neapolitan pizza – or pizza Napoletana in Italian. A UNESCO-affirmed national treasure, this soulful sensation is one of many “authentic” Italian masterpieces local chefs have mastered. Here, some of these chefs share how to cook like an Italian grandmother as part of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District’s (CCID) #ComeBackToTown campaign which aims to encourage visitors to return to town to stimulate the CBD economy.
Marco Picone is the co-owner of I Love the Dough, known for its neon pink interior, cheeky signs and seriously good food. There’s no doubt that Picone is a master of modern Italian cuisine. He says what sets Italian food apart is its honesty, “It’s something everyone loves. It’s something people celebrate with and comfort themselves with. No other food does that.”
Picone and his partner learnt everything they know from their nonnas: “We both have a nonna and neither of them take any prisoners when it comes to cooking in the kitchen. They taught us everything we know – swear words included.”Ciao Pizzeria on Long Street is where any Napoletana acolyte should head. A pilgrimage to this humble hot spot guarantees an authentic experience, from the award-winning mozzarella to the San Marzano-style tomatoes.
Traditional Napoletana must be made with San Marzano tomatoes or Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio varieties grown on the volcanic plains of Mount Vesuvius. Plus, the mozzarella is supposed to hail from water buffalo raised on the marshy valleys of Campania and Lazio. Or it could be cow-milk mozzarella made by the Agerola municipality. It’s all very whimsical and wonderful. And Ciao Pizzeria is committed to recreating the experience in Cape Town.
Owner Bashier Sonday says there’s no such thing as the perfect Neapolitan pizza. “You’re always striving to create the perfect one, but never actually reaching it. What’s crucial is top quality ingredients – the right flour, the right cheese. You also need the right type of oven at the perfect temperature. And love. There has to be love and passion for what you do.”
There’s no particular nonna behind Bashier’s brilliance, but rather two women – his mama and his wife. “My mom was always cooking up a storm. Otherwise my wife was my real muse and inspiration.” His go-to food following a tough day? A pizza. Obviously. “I had to start a gym routine just so I can keep eating my pizza.”
Find these and more CBD gems in the CCID’s handy retail map that has been distributed and is available online as part of the CBTT campaign to reinvigorate the CBD economy.