BOCCA may have retained its predecessor’s name but, in fact, this restaurant is a totally reimagined space with new owners, a new menu, and fresh décor. Essentially, it’s a new restaurant! Tired of the impersonal and tightly wound nature of the international hospitality scene, Chef Guido and Adnana Brambilla decided to relocate to Cape Town to start their own urban Italian restaurant, upon which they could unleash their whole hearts, minds, personalities and talents. Within minutes of walking into this strikingly colourful and vibrant space and meeting this extraordinary couple, it became clear to me that BOCCA is the product of love – love for food, love for people, and love for each other. You don’t get a better context for a meal than that!
Good, honest Italian food
After a day of restraint and salad, we unleashed our ravenous appetites on BOCCA’s menu, curating our own unorthodox three-course meal from their lovely selection of honest Italian dishes. For starters: the yellowfin tuna carpaccio sprinkled with olive slivers, tomatoes, oregano, spring onions, and Cape microgreens. This beautifully fresh and delicate dish stood in stark contrast to the robust and earthy Foresta pizzette, a 16 cm Neapolitan-style wood fired pizza topped with wild mushroom, rosemary mascarpone, Parmesan shavings, and truffle drizzle. I would like to take the time to highlight the fact that there is nothing – I mean nothing – on this pizza that doesn’t sound absolutely amazing.
For mains, we ordered the Cassiopipa, a Venetian-style seafood ragù prepared with penne pasta quills (cooked al dente, naturally) and oriental spices, such as saffron and cinnamon, finished off with a touch of cream. We also had the misto from the “crispy” subsection of BOCCA’s menu (deep-fried seafood bites of calamari, prawns, mussels, and whole white bait fish) and the stracciatella starter, an indulgently creamy gooey white cheese, which BOCCA serves in a jar topped with roasted cherry tomatoes, eggplant confit, basil pesto, and little crostino fingers to scoop out all the creamy goodness.
Saving the best for last
Until this point, we had enjoyed an incredible meal and could very well have gone home happy – rotund, but happy. And then dessert arrived: the tiramisu. BOCCA doesn’t do anything crafty or creative with their tiramisu and thank God they steer clear of this modern obsession with deconstructing everything. Rather, what they do is serve unadulterated, quintessential Italian tiramisu and it is one of the most beautiful things to have happened to my face in recent memory. Even now, I struggle to think of the words to do this dessert justice.
Put it this way: BOCCA’s tiramisu was so good, I ate it with my eyes closed in pure pleasure. I also ate the entire thing at the expense of my poor ankles, which had to somehow carry me out of the restaurant at the end of our sweeping gastronomical Italian experience.
Becoming a member of the family
Throughout our meal, Adnana delighted us with romantic stories of her and her husband’s restaurant and its menu – for each and every dish on that menu holds a significance to the couple and has, one way or another, played a role in their love story. Guido’s adoration for his restaurant, his food, and his wife radiates out of every word he speaks and I found myself listening to both of them with big, moist eyes and a full heart.
It’s the intense warmth and love lavished upon its guests by Guido and Adnana that sets the newly revamped and reimagined BOCCA aside from almost every other restaurant I’ve been to this year. More than mere professional courtesy, we were welcomed like adored friends and treated like family in a way that felt comfortable and freeing, rather than inappropriate or cloying. Couple that with beautiful, honest Italian food and a stellar South African wine list with fabulous variety, and you’ve basically got the cure to any emotional ailment imaginable.
If I ever find myself heart broken, I will come to BOCCA, eat my weight in Guido’s delicious Italian food, order a bottle of good wine, and disappear into Adnana’s stories of love, dashing adventure, and romance!
BOCCA is open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday from 12:00 until 22:00 (last orders taken at 21:30)