Without frills and fuss, Italian antipasto is traditionally the first course of a formal Italian meal, but is so breezy and delicious we see no harm in consuming it for mains too. From a simple platter of cured meats and green olives, to a more varied array of artichoke hearts, anchovies, vegetables in olive oil and cheeses, it’s our favourite kind of dining.
We visited Pane e Vino, Stellenbosch’s very own traditional Italian eatery. Owned by the Dalla Cia’s of the Grappa distillery that runs adjacent to it, it truly does feel like you’ve walked off the tree-lined road of Bosman’s Crossing and into a little slice of Tuscany. The family-owned wine and food bar is so warm and homely, and the atmosphere so charming, that it’s easy to become a regular.
Pane E Vino, meaning ‘bread and wine’, embraces the basic and traditional. It uses only the freshest local ingredients, imported Italian staples and traditional recipes, with a varied wine list featuring wines from the Dalla Cia range.
The chalkboard menu changes daily, but always includes classic Italian dishes with uncomplicated flavours, such as Caprese salad, pastas, veal and pork. I enjoyed the antipasto (R89), a selection of cured meats and olives that went down a treat with a glistening Aperitivo (R45). Bernard on the other hand opted for something a little heavier: the Involtini di vitello con carciofi, the day’s special (R108). He paired the bold flavours with a glass of Dalla Cia Classico (R55).
Whether you’re hungry for a hearty meal or a light snack, you’re sure to find a classic favourite, enjoyed with a glass of Dalla Cia wine or a bottle of imported Italian vino. And of course in the Italian tradition, the meal should end with an espresso or corretto with one of Dalla Cia’s grappas.
Grappa tastings are available should you wish to sip and savour this grape-based spirit. Meet the Dalla Cia family, all with their own wine making and food experience. Giorgio Dalla Cia (a name that will always be associated with the iconic Rubicon) created one of the first Bordeaux style blends in South Africa. His son, George Dalla Cia followed closely in the winemaking footsteps, and after learning the family secrets of grappa making, is hands on in both the distillery and cellar. His wife, Elena is the mastermind behind the menu, actively serving in the kitchen and front of house. You really will leave feeling like part of the family, and on a chilly winter’s day, fireside with a rich glass of red in hand, it’s a cosy, unpretentious environment that really is casual Italy.
Photography Bernard Myburgh Words Lisa Wallace