When South Africans think of Italian food, often the immediate frame of reference is a pizza loaded with a variety of toppings, or a heavily sauced pasta also brimming with ingredients. In September last year I had the privilege of spending a month in Italy, and therefore the chance to immerse myself in authentic Italian cuisine. I quickly realized how different this was from what we often consider the “Italian experience’ in South Africa.
I was excited about a recent invite to the lunch at 95 at Parks, as I was hoping it would be an opportunity to revisit my time in Italy: vicariously through the food of renowned chef Giorgio Nava. Very quickly I felt transported back to Italy, reliving some of the aspects of Italian dining that I have come to love so much.
The Art of the Slow Meal
Firstly, Italians have mastered what I’ve heard referred to as “the art of the slow meal”. For an Italian, nothing about a meal should be rushed. I distinctly remember ordering a one course dinner at Lake Como (to save money of course) and the waitress simply couldn’t understand it: what about the other courses? A meal was an experience that lingered over several plates, and that was that. The process takes longer, but encourages conversation – or from what a recall from a tiny eatery in Gubbio – rather animated singing from the restaurant owner!
Lunch at 95 at Parks embodies this spirit, and our lunch was an extended experience of food and conversation. There’s something enchanting about Nava’s cooking that inspires stories and the well paired wines kept the tales coming. In addition to the à la carte menu, 95 at Parks offers a 6-course Italian Experience tasting menu of showstopper dishes at R330 per person, and this is what kept is going over the afternoon.
The second thing I’ve learned about Italian dining, is the age old adage less is more. Where we often load our pizzas and pastas, Nava’s cooking reminded us that less done well is certainly a better option, releasing greater flavour profiles. Some of my highlights were:
- The deconstructed Caprese Salad
- Homemade ravioli of slow baked Karoo lam shoulder with sage butter
- Potato gnocchi with beef Ragu
- Of course ending with some freshly made gelato and berries
Whilst we were seated in one of the indoor dining spaces, the theme of elegant simplicity is carried out into the conservatory, and outdoor seating areas. I can only imagine these being favoured spaces to enjoy a summer’s evening.
Chef Giorgio says: “We believe 95 at Parks fills a need for authentic Italian cuisine in Constantia and that our extended menu appeals both to our lunch time clientele, as well as meat lovers with our wide choice of prime cuts”. Native to the area I couldn’t agree more – in face the gorgeous surroundings are enough to encourage anyone to drive the extra mile for the visit. I’ve already recommended the experience to countless friends, and look forward to my next visit.
95 at Parks is situated at 114 Constantia Main Road and is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesdays to Saturdays, and Sunday lunch, with secure parking on the premises. For bookings call 021-7610247 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.