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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Kos & Wyn | Food & Wine > Rubrieke | Columns > Paul Murray: Murray's Food Trails

The Meloncino Trail

Paul Murray - 2008-06-03


The Meloncino Trail - Cape Town
The Richetto al Grappolo d’Oro Trail – Roma, Italy
  Meloncino recently opened its doors to offer Italophiles, visiting Italians and Italo-South Africans alike the closest thing to Italy. The breathtaking Waterfront view across the V & A Basin serves as a suitable complement to the mouthwatering dishes.  
Table Mountain, Julius Caesar and Romulus and Remus

The saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do", raises the question: What about when Romans come to Cape Town? "When in Cape Town, do as the Capetonians do"? Difficult – to say the least – especially if the Romans themselves own a Roman restaurant on the Waterfront!

Meloncino could certainly not sport better connections!

Its sister restaurants are Richetto al Grappolo d’Oro right next to the Olympic Soccer Stadium where Roma plays every weekend, in the area of the Milvian Bridge, where Constantine marched on Rome and defeated Maxentius in 312 ad; and Piatto Ricco in the area where Rome’s founders Romulus and Remus lived in 756 bc.

Milvian Bridge, Rome, Italy

So the connections are as old as the Seven Hills of Rome, right here, under the watchful eye of Van Hunk’s Table Mountain. The owner is Paolo Carrara and maître-d Alberto himself, an ex-diplomat and gourmet, speaks seven languages. The concept of Meloncino was born in Rome, inspired by Paolo’s father.

Three imported Italian chefs ensure that the diner will not just get a taste of Italy, but eat Italian, as though in Ancient Rome at the time; for instance, the delectable dish favoured personally by Julius Caesar, Osso Buco alla Romana (veal on the bone); or Tagliata di Manzo alla Righetto (slices of grilled sirloin); or his favourite, the Caesar Salad! So the great Caesar would have felt at home in Meloncino in Cape Town.

Chefs Andrea from Livorno, Luciano from Rome, and Roberto from Bologna appear like the three tenors as they ensure a concert of feasts in the kitchen. You can see them through the curtain windows as they work, sing and gesticulate, ensuring fresh bread on a daily basis and fresh home-made pasta like Mamma makes in Roma.

The Three Chefs, Andrea, Luciano and Roberto

So what’s the difference?  

Meloncino uses an open-fire grill with charcoal (brace, pronounced bra-tche), where all meats and fish dishes are cooked to a "braai" taste. Then there is a proper wood-fire pizza oven where thin-base (Roman style) and thick-base (Neapolitan style) pizzas are cooked; but there’s also a range of other types of pizzas, such as calzone, crostini and bruschettone.

So if your’e wondering where to getta pizza lika Mamma makes it, Meloncino’s the place!

Paolo says: "We have fish, meat, pasta, veal and chicken dishes. All very contemporary modern Italian cuisine with a touch of Roman style. Very much now what they are eating in Rome, Milan and Venice."

His pappa taught him right, and Alberto ensures that it gets done right! Ensuring the real thing!

But Meloncino is not only this explosion of tastes, its location is possibly one of the most strategic sites in the whole of the Waterfront, overlooking the V & A Basin with Table Mountain for a backdrop, and will certainly inspire any Roman who says his city is not built in a day and spans seven hills.

Interior of Meloncino situated overlooking the V & A Basin
  The vibe just goes on …. It’s a feast for the eye, too, at the il ristorante – bar – pizzeria - italiano combo with the modern, attractive decor. Excellent, highly professional and personal service ensures absolute order amidst Italian chaos. With the current proprietorship owning a chain of Italian restaurants in Italy and elsewhere on the Waterfront, we in Cape Town can be sure of the continued cross-movement of ideas, chefs and maintenance – Alberto, the ex-diplomat, is Roman.  
Staff at Meloncino
  Start by reading through the newspaper-format menu: La Gazetta del Meloncino, where the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe serve as a reminder to the lover of the Rome:

“Here I am at last in Rome, calm and, from what I can understand, appeased for the rest of my life.”
Gli Azzurri – Italian 2006 World Cup Soccer Champions, soon in SA

Gli Azzurri (the Italian national soccer side), as defenders, will be playing in the new Green Point stadium in the 2010 World Cup, which will attract more television watchers than any other game in the history of the world. Surely on the day they will be working up an appetite, and afterwards for dinner will flock to Meloncino for the closest thing to Rome that they will get in Cape Town? Those not fortunate enough to get tickets to the match will be watching at the bar televisions, singing Italian football songs along with "Figli d’Italia", the National Anthem, with el cheffo preparing like mad in the kitchen. Guess what … whatever the meal, to end with there will be limoncello.

With Meloncino in Cape Town, one’s mind can’t possibly help going back to the time of Rossi’s in the city, or La Fontana on the Sea Point Esplanade, and the old Hildebrand, where the old world still reigned supreme. Today, in the same tradition of the best in Italian food, Meloncino serves up fare that is up there with the best. Try the freshly made pastas accompanied by a choice of sauces to die for; the crispy crusty pizzas are made like you get them in Italy, and the veal dishes come topped with variety of scrumptious sauces. Not forgetting the creative desserts.

The pizzas are from the wood oven and the dough is from the manna from heaven. The menu is extensive, no room for boredom, ranging from antipasti (starters), zuppa (soup), main courses and side dishes, to a wide rang of desserts: sorbetto al meloncino is a signature dish – melon sorbet.

The Rolls Royce of all dishes must surely be the Arrosto di Pesce Misto Meloncino: Meloncino’s finest seafood platter including crayfish, calamari, mussels gratin, prawns and line fish, served with rice.

Or simply go for the salads followed by a choice of the range of home-made pastas: Ravioloni di Zucca – home-made large ravioli of pumpkin in a light cream source. Finish with a sorbet and coffee.

At Meloncino you have to end your meal with limoncello, or else you will suffer indigestion. Not because there is anything wrong with the food – on the contrary, the food is fit for the Roman gods – but because it’s a new idiom. This way of dining, the Mediterranean way, is a way growing slowly but surely in Cape Town

  Some things never finish: the view, the friendliness, ambience, all ever-lasting like the Eternal City itself – La Bella Roma. And as you leave your plate as clean as though it has been through the dishwasher, you say, knowingly, "Arrivederci", "Till we meet again", because you will be back!  

Shop 259
, 8001
021 419 5558

Viale di Tor di Quinto 33
Tel 0039 – 06 - 3333780  

Via della Pelliccia 29/a
Tel 0039 06 45425332