Massimo’s restaurant in Hout Bay, authentic Italian food beyond gloopy pasta sauce

There has been a lot of talk of salsiccia of late.  This after a globe-trotting friend bought a house in Sea Point dubbed Casa Salsiccia, also known in her taal as the Worshuisie, for its narrow-long Victorian-style design.  Problem is I don’t confidently recall having tried this Italian sausage.  When Massimo of Hout Bay started tweeting about this wurst and his intention to re-open a restaurant there my nostrils flared in a manner more epicurean than equine.  Problem is the launch kept being delayed, creating a credibility crisis.

4/5 stars
+27 (0)21 790 5648
Oakhurst Farm Park
beside Spar supermarket
Main Rd
Atlantic Seaboard
Cape Peninsula

Would the bloody trattoria ever open or was it simply the same pizza oven pipe-dream old Japie from dusty Citrusdal has been harping on about in the ‘waterfront’ kroeg there, ambitiously named ByDiDam.  Between brandies.  From Massimo’s tweets it was clear his knowledge of the Italian cucina and limoncello making was superb.  But was he, like Japie, all talk?

Then the Hout Bay joint finally opened.  You will forgive the initial skepticism but soon the positive tweets and blogs started to flash up on the screen quicker than you can say Dalai Lama.  It just had to be tried out. 

The restaurant is housed in the non-descript end of the Oakhurst strip mall that houses a Spar.  (This Spar was once one of the few grocers to stock the luxury that is pickled walnuts, even if they were over-honeyed.)  Massimo and his Liverpudlian wife Tracy, a lively host, have done well to brighten up what was once a dull tea café or some such like eatery.  Beige walls, some face brick and wooden tables and chairs do the trick.

The interior is inhabited by happy diners of all species: 20-something women out for a pizza night, friendly jocks, pensioners and middle-aged couples with teenage children.  The diverse crowd creates the atmosphere of a local – spot on the stereotype of a simple Italian.

Boards advertise a limited Italian menu that changes daily and goes beyond staples such as Spaghetti Bolognaise (Ragu) and gloopy mushroom and cream sauces that you can dine on at Basilico in Newlands Village.  The pizzas – all laced with fior di latte mozzarella cheese (so not made from the usual skim milk) and stone ground flour – are on the menu card.  There are even a couple of affordable Italian wines on the list.

To start we share a goat feta, chickpea and cherry tomato salad with a delicate chilli dressing.  It is dotted with the freshest baby leaves: mild dhania (coriander) and the same of radicchio or is it beetroot leaf?  (Someone must be making a packet supplying all these micro-herbs and veggies to the trade.)

Then it is the salsiccia stew, a dish you’ll hardly find on South African Italian menus.  The sausage is spicy but not chilli-hot, adding a moreish depth to cannellini beans cooked in garlic and sage sauce. 

Brilliant comfort food.  A simple ‘peasant’ dish but one that you will find hard to beat on any smart menu that includes crayfish and pâté de foie gras. Here roasted peppers complete the picture. 

I don’t detect any fennel seeds, one of the ‘it’ spices of the moment in everything from salads to sausages but then this spice is apparently a speciality of Southern Italy.  In the Piedmontese north, where Massimo hails from, garlic and chilli are more prominent.

By way of comparison I have tried to buy salsiccia from the enticing Gogo’s free range deli inNewlands Village but they were sold out so I settled for a Sicilian variety with red wine, chilli and garlic.  This also worked fairly well with beans (garlic but no onions in the initial frying process).  Gogo’s is one of the few upmarket meat retailers inCape Townto proudly punt goat meat.

The Swiss Miss’ meatballs at Massimo’s are honest but the tomato sauce covering them and the spaghetti is too light for my liking when taken with the bold taste of the balls.  I believe the quick-cooked light sauce to be authentic with this dish.  Even though dense tomato sauce only rarely works for me, I would have preferred it here

It certainly isn’t the wolfish heavy sauce that plays the starring (and almost fatal) role in the hilarious comedy I Love You to Death, featuring Kevin Kline and the late River Phoenix.

The tiramisu (literally pick me up) is so big it is more likely to sink you than perk you up unless you share it.  BTW that is a compliment.

Dishes are not only from the north and some pasta, such as penne with melanzane (brinjal), pinoli (pine nuts), olives and capers, are served.

Other dishes you won’t find at your ‘usual’ Italian that can be offered include: vegetable, borlotti bean & barley soup; risotto con porri (leeks) e zucca gialla; and pork fillet stuffed with prunes, garlic, olives, capers and spices.  No idea what zucca gialla is but it might be zucchini flowers or a yellow pumpkin, which might be a butternut.  So I believe it is safe to say it is from the squash family.  Italians please help.  The restaurant website, listed in the contact details on this page, should tell you what’s on the menu today.

Your “well-behaved” young kids are welcome.  However, if negative behaviour affects fellow diners the management reserves the right “to roast children in the pizza oven & serve them to hungry diners”.

This recalls the brilliant 1987 political black comedy Eat the Rich about a trendy restaurant that was all the rage among the wealthy called, you guessed it, Eat the Rich.  Every night just a couple of unsuspecting diners in the 400 seater are whisked off to the kitchen and cooked so patrons literally ‘Eat the Rich’.

In the Hout Bay joint smaller children’s pizzas are only served until 7pm.

Closed next week.  Re-opens October 19, 2011.

4/5 stars on the night.  Great value.  Not often you feel like returning to the same restaurant the very next night.

Gogo’s Deli sell baby chicken, duck and quail for roasting.  If you want the best traditional open roasting beef joints, such as thick sirloin on the bone, email them three days in advance.  To read about authentic roasting click here.

Tom Robbins
Posted October 7, 2011

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3 Responses to “Massimo’s restaurant in Hout Bay, authentic Italian food beyond gloopy pasta sauce”

  1. swiss miss says:

    Beautifully written

  2. Tom Robbins says:

    The second meal at Massimo’s was less impressive. Good pizza with creamy mozzarella but the veal with a cured Italian Ham a little bland and dry.

    Full marks to the waitress for checking if the veal was the real Italian product (young cow denied grass and kept on milk) or if it was simply young grass-fed cow. It was the grass-fed animal. This is the kind of disclosure that should be routine in restaurants. (I would have ordered the dish even if it had been raised in the Italian style.) This is another food ethics issue for me to explore. What do you think of Italian style veal? I feel it is less abusive towards the animal than foie gras but that doesn’t necessarily make it right.

  3. Francesca says:

    Hallo Tom,
    I believe if you have so many concerns about what veals and young cows are kept on, you should go vegeterian, or even vegan, or simply stick to chicken. Italian veals have been raised that way for centuries, so please allow us to keep our traditions without too much questioning. That would solve the problem.
    A good subject for all of us to wonder about, however, could be, for example, whether children in the less privileged neighbourhoods of Cape Town are kept on putrid water, or are they allowed some cow’s milk every now and then, just like their unfortunate veal friends.

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