A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff
THE elegant Cape Dutch house in Churchill Avenue, just opposite the entrance to UZ, is now the habitat of Little Eataly Restaurant and Coffee shop, also known as the ‘home of freshly made pasta and ravioli’. In the 1960s comfortably middle class families lived in Churchill Avenue; today many of their houses have become places to slake your thirst or quell hunger pains, ranging from elegant coffee shops to popular Chinese and Thai restaurants.
Although a relatively new kid on the block, Little Eataly already has a dedicated clientele who love silky smooth, perfectly cooked pasta.
Christine and Luca Cassini who own and manage Little Eataly, are steeped in Italian cuisine. In San Remo on the Italian Riviera, Luca’s family own La Tavernetta, a popular brunch and lunch restaurant where patrons queue up for torta verde (vegetable tart) and farinata ( a chick pea flat bread, said to be addictive).
Some years ago, Luca Cassini ran La Dolce Vita, a stylish fine dining restaurant in Avondale. Luca and his wife Christine recently opened Little Eataly, opening for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offering a variety of classic Italian dishes.
When George and I arrived at Little Eataly for lunch last Saturday, a waiter smartly dressed in black jeans and a lime green shirt met us at the front door, and led us to our table in the shady garden at the side of the house. It feels good to be welcomed on arrival at a restaurant, rather than wandering about aimlessly in search of a table.
It was a still, hot Saturday afternoon, perfect for chilled homemade lemonade ($2). Not having a liquor licence, Little Eataly encourages guests to BYO. Apart from family groups with small children, most guests were sipping either red or white wine, the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of pasta. We found the lemonade so good, that on draining the first glass, we immediately each ordered another.
All the starters on the menu sounded tantalising, but George finally chose tasty crumbed calamari with a dipping sauce ($7), served in a stack resembling fish fingers, calamari rings being temporarily unavailable. My choice, red and yellow grilled peppers made with garlic, olives, capers and anchovies, and served with foccaccia ($8), tasted authentic, but looked disappointing. Instead of being cut in half and maintaining their shape, the peppers were thinly sliced and served in a mound, resembling a relish or side dish. They say you eat with your eyes, so appearance is as important as taste.
Meat main courses, particularly beef fillet with roast potatoes and salad, were enticing, but neither of us could resist the lure of home made pasta – meat ravioli with a ragu sauce ($14.50) for George, and pumpkin ravioli with butter and sage ($12) for me. A generous bowl of freshly-grated parmesan cheese (not the cardboard variety sold in packets) perfected this delicious dish. It’s a risky business (even in fine dining establishments) ordering ravioli in Harare. There have been times when I have found the pasta too thick, poorly cooked, and have had to reluctantly abandon the dish. And it’s no use the waiter offering you a replacement, as by this time you’ve invariably lost your appetite.
We ate a leisurely lunch, enjoying the food and the restful ambience, and chatting to foodies at the next door table. By the time we got around to ordering dessert, my first choices, the orange cake and the orange tart, were both finished. We decided to end our meal with a small cappuccino each ($2) and to share a slice of chocolate tart ($5.50). The coffees were good, and the chocolate tart combined the rich, creamy taste of organic coffee beans with crisp, well-cooked pastry – bellissimo!
As the food scene in Churchill Avenue continues to grow, restaurateurs are glamourising exteriors and upping their game. It’s a matter of time before the next exciting establishment opens its doors.
Little Eataly Restaurant/Coffee Shop
11 Churchill Avenue
Open Monday – Saturday 09.00 – 15.00, 17.30 – 21.00
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