I’ve always had this incredible infatuation with, but also a deep respect for, the simultaneously simple and complex nature of Italian cuisine. I admire the easy way Italians throw a few quality ingredients into a dish and it’s elevated to next level tastiness, but I’m also fascinated by the deeply intricate art of making pasta and gnocchi, for example. So when I was asked to spend a morning in the kitchen with owner and chef of Nonna Lina, Antonello Scamuzzi, I surely wasn’t going to decline, especially when he hinted that he will be sharing some of his beloved Nonna’s recipes!
Nonna Lina opened its doors on 17 November 2003. Over the years, they have worked tirelessly to continually provide only the freshest of ingredients, prepared in a traditional way. Their aim is to wrap you in some good old Italian hospitality, as Antonello’s Nonna Lina would’ve, while delighting you with simple Italian and Sardinian food.
The flavours you’ll find at Nonna Lina are the result of an unswerving passion for producing great food. From wood-fired pizzas to mouth-watering pastas and much, much more, their menu of authentic Italian dishes with a strong Sardinian influence, offers deliciously comforting food for all.
They also have a newly refurbished, uber-modern branch in Sea Point, and a beautiful stall (and massive pizza oven!) in the V&A Waterfront’s Food Market for a quick fix, or a lazy weekend indulgence.
My invitation was hand delivered by the gorgeous Tara, along with a little goodie bag filled with traditional Sardinian snacks and treats to whet the appetite. As we all know, by now I was….yes, childishly excited about spending the afternoon in the company of the Nonna Lina team whilst learning the intricacies of authentic Italian cooking from Antonello.
A small hand-selected team of foodies and bloggers gathered on a sunny afternoon at Nonna Lina’s premises in the city. We were welcomed in true Italian style by Antonello and Tara. Once everyone arrived, we started this informal session over icy glasses of Aperol, an Italian apéritif. Antonello shared a bit of the history of his family, the restaurant, his inspirations and ambitions with us before we moved to the cooking station.
Antonello laid out a large preparation table for us, and the pizza oven fires were lit, waiting to receive our creations. Each course of the menu was paired with a selected wine, and even though it was written in Italian, I was pretty sure my mouth was watering in foreign languages!
We started by preparing an Italian staple, and the ultimate crowd pleaser: tomato and basil bruscetta. This simple starter dish is easy to make, light and refreshing, and with Antonello’s footnotes straight from Nonna Lina’s kitchen, will definitely have you as the talk of the party.
We quickly apron’ed up and started building our bruscetta topping, all under the patient and guiding hand of Antonello. The key is fresh ingredients; and not skimping on quality. Before long, we tucked in, our tummies rumbling at just the smell of it all. We also prepared a lovely veggie egg-plant dish, using the rest of the bruscetta mix.
We then prepared two types of lasagna; veggie and meat. But – and here is the revelation of the day – we didn’t use pasta and we didn’t use a rectangular dish. Mind blown.
Antonello introduced us to pane carasau; a traditional flatbread from Sardinia which you toast in an open fire. This gives the lasagna a much lighter, but more indulgent, texture and saves precious time in the preparation thereof.
I loved the casual way Antonello interacts with his food; nonchalant, but lovingly. He believes in simplicity and even a lasagna dish is overkill and distracts from the food itself . He taught us how to gently stack our lasagna layers on gorgeously large white dinner plates, ready to be cooked in the pizza oven. The veggie lasagna was made with eggplant and looked every bit as delicious as the meat version.
We were amused and entertained and amazed. We chatted and laughed and watched each other work, all the while learning such valuable cooking skills that Antonello freely shared with us.
We then moved on to the actual kitchen, where Antonello prepared a gigantic pot of mussels in white wine sauce. We all huddled around the cooker and watched as the mussels transformed into a fragrant, beautifully elegant dish before our eyes. It doesn’t need much more than a few quality ingredients; which once again echoed Nonna Lina’s core principles and values.
No feast is complete without sweet treats! We quickly, and very expertly, even if I must say so myself, whipped up a batch of seada’s – a traditional Sardinian dessert of a filled pastry, deep-fried to golden perfection. Antonello showed us how to generously fill a round of pizza dough with chunks of buffalo mozzarella, preserved figs and crushed nuts. Once fried, they were served with a tart raspberry coulis and a dark chocolate drizzle. So quick, so easy, and pretty impressive!
After all the cooking and prepping, we sat down with glasses of wine, ready for our lunch to be served. The dishes came out in quick succession; all paired with more plates of crispy pane carasau to lap up all the delicious sauces.
When we all sat back after a luxuriously long lunch, the table was a sight to behold – it was simply beautiful in its chaotic state. Opened bottles of wine, disregarded corks, empty mussel shells, pieces of leftover pane carasau and a trail of crumbs; dark red remnants of wine glasses imprinted on the brown paper table covers. The table spoke of good times, great food, family and friends. It spoke to the Italian culture of togetherness and left me with a feeling of camaraderie with my fellow bloggers and foodies; some friends already, and some who became friends during the course of our imaginary trip to Sardinia. A quick round of strong, fragrant espresso’s at the bar and we all reluctantly parted ways with dreams of Italy in our minds.
I’m sure Nonna Lina would’ve been immensely proud seeing us sitting around the table, indulging in her food and original recipes. I’m sure she would’ve been incredibly proud of Antonello, for chasing this intense passion of food and sharing, and for always staying true to his principles and heritage.
What to expect
If you’re after true authentic Italian and Sardinian food, then a visit to this long-standing Cape Town institution is a must. Not only for the consistently good food, but also for the whole experience. Nonna Lina offers unparalleled views of Table Mountain at sunset, with a lovely enclosed outdoor area where you can enjoy a sundowner or two. The restaurant is small and intimate, all focused around the giant pizza oven and the service is unmatched. At Nonna Lina, everyone is family, and you are invited to the feast!
Where to find Nonna Lina
Gardens: Ristorante & Pizzeria
Nonna Lina in Gardens is conveniently nestled in one of Cape Town’s most vibrant areas, just next to the Labia Theatre, opposite UCT. It is our flagship restaurant, with an extensive Italian menu and a nice wine list to ensure that every dish has the perfect wine pairing.
Sea Point: Pizzeria
Nonna Lina Sea Point pizzeria is the latest addition to the family, in the busy and vibrant Main Road right opposite the Total Garage at n.148. Open every day, our famous Pizza, pastas and salads for lunch and dinner. Fully licensed.
V&A food market: Pizzeria Take Away
The Nonna Lina Pizzeria at the V&A Food Market can be found upstairs, where wood-fired pizzas and delectable fresh salads can be enjoyed.
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.