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

The Harlequin Restaurant

Paul Murray - 2010-12-02

The Harlequin Restaurant
Voortrekker Road
Parow , Western Cape
Telephone: +27 (0)21 9391993
Facsimile: +27 (0)21 9391993

An outing to the other side of the Boerewors Curtain from the southern suburbs of Cape Town to celebrate Mevrou Hugo’s departure from 43 years of teaching Afrikaans was a good excuse to return to the Harlequin.

It was to be a fitting tribute to an inspiring teacher.

It’s not every day you go dining with Riëtte Hugo. She’s got a lot on her plate – when she’s not teaching Afrikaans. Teaching Afrikaans has been her great love, she says in the interview. Her greatest regret is that she did not manage to inculcate a sufficient amount of love in her students for the subject.

At least that is what she says. I would imagine it’s an underestimation of herself and her achievements – all who have been taught by her are inspired! Her style is infectious.

Mevrou Hugo (Riëtte) at the Harlequin during a farewell with colleagues

Her favourite poem says a lot about her. It’s NP Van Wyk Louw’s “En as ek dood is”:

En as ek dood is, sal alles nog so mooi wees ...?
die ylrooi bloeisels smôrens blink aan die perskeboom,
wit wolke torings bou daar bo die verste berge,
die kalwers langs die kraalmuur smiddags lê en droom?
Sal daar nog warm plekkies son wees tussen donker bome,
en goggatjies nog teen die grassies klim,
as ek so ver is en daarvan nie weet nie,
en maar geen liggie voor my oog wil glim?
Sal voor my venster nog die rose somers rank,
die berge ver, so ver en blou wees,
die swaweltjies in waterklare lug draai,
en sal die gras nog hier so warm net soos nou wees?
Ek wil geen mooier wêreld hê as hierdie,
en wil nie blind wees, blind en doof en koud.
O sterf met my, o sterwe, skone wêreld,
hier in ons liefde eer jy dof word en so oud.

From: Alleenspraak (Nasionale Boekhandel)


But there was no time for declamation of poetry; the assortment of pastas was far too luring … and colleague Jannie de Villiers’s guitar playing of a tribute song for Mevrou far outweighed anything else.

Loyal colleague Jannie de Villiers sings a song written for Mevrou Hugo at the Harlequin.


The Harlequin is a landmark in the northern suburbs: it’s been there for close on half a century – as long as Mevrou has been teaching Afrikaans!

Amerigo, restaurateur at the Harlequin Restaurant, trained in Italian operatic country, Verona; he did himself proud by serving up delectable farinaceous dishes – an assortment of pasta “to die for”. It’s as if Romeo and Juliet were going to sit down to eat there.

Amerigo has recently taken over the reins from Angelo Inzadi, formerly of La Fontana on Beach Road in Sea Point. Amerigo hails from Verona, famous for its opera. The background music at the Harlequin is definitely classic opera: “Vesti la giubba”, translated “Put on the costume” – it’s the clown who must ensure the show goes on, it’s the harlequin who must ensure that its clients are served the delicious dishes that they have been eating there for years!

(Source: http://www.photocritiq.com/shoeboxdb/35662.lg.jpg


Colleague Jean Nolte shared his favourite poem, by Breyten Breytenbach:

Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou ’n rooiborsduif 

Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou ’n rooiborsduif
want niemand sal ’n boodskap wat rooi is skiet nie.
Ek gooi my rooiborsduif hoof in die lug en ek
weet al die jagters sal dink dis die son.
Kyk, my duif kom op en my duif gaan onder
en waar hy vlieg daar skitter oseane
en bome word groen
en hy kleur my boodskap so bruin op jou vel
Want my liefde reis met jou mee,
my liefde moet soos ’n engel by jou bly,
soos vlerke, wit soos ’n engel.
Jy moet van my liefde bly weet
soos van die vlerke waarmee jy nie kan vlieg nie

(Source: http://breytenbreytenbach.blogspot.com/2005/11/allerliefste-ek-stuur-vir-jou-n.html )

Jean Nolte, one of Mevrou Hugo’s colleagues in the Afrikaans Department

Seated around the tables from the 60s, we talk about the Little Karoo, the scene of Mario Salviati, Etienne van Heerden’s award-winning novel. Jean is from Oudtshoorn. One of the characters in Van Heerden’s book is Irene Lampak, a stunningly beautiful Asian princess whose vestments include the latest fashion made of ostrich feathers. Jean is nostalgic about Oudtshoorn’s history. We imagine Mario at our table, the coarse hands of an artisan gripping the spoon of his minestrone bow, getting stuck into every bean, pea and piece of celery the nutrition has to offer ... perfectly prepared by Chef Amerigo!


The minestrone, home-made at the Harlequin


Latteria Mamma’s Minestrone from  http://www.cuisine.com.au/)

: Jill Dupleix
Natalie Boog
The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday August 23, 2005
Italian, 45 mins plus, Healthy, Vegetarian, Nut free, Egg free, Soup

You need 

  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 kg carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch celery, sliced
  • 500 g tomato passata
  • 2 litres water
  • 1/4 cauliflower, chopped
  • 750 g zucchini, sliced
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 125 g cannellini beans, cooked
  • 125 g kidney beans, cooked
  • 125 g borlotti beans, cooked
  • 1 bunch silver beet, roughly chopped
  • 100 g pecorino.


Italy’s proud sons claim that the freshness of the vegetables and the fact that their mums stand around chopping and talking all day make this the best minestrone in town.


Heat the olive oil in a large pot and fry the onion until golden. Add the garlic, carrots and celery and fry, tossing well, for 5 minutes. Add the pasta and water and bring slowly to the boil. Add the cauliflower, zucchini, potatoes and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 mins. Add the cooked beans and silver beet and simmer for a further 10 mins or until thick and soupy. Serve with plenty of freshly grated pecorino. Makes 4 litres. (Adapted from a recipe that makes 18 litres.)

The evening was the brainchild of André Jacobs, a patron at the Harlequin since the 1960s.

André Jacobs masterminded the event. He has been a patron at the Harlequin since the 1960s and enjoys the pasta – André himself being an avid chef, and a former restaurateur!

André ensures that his spaghetti is well mixed.

(Source: http://dejavu2k9.files.wordpress.com)

Eating at the Harlequin is like being on the lake at Como: there’s always the view right there in front of you – even though you’re actually in Parow.

Trevor Pasquallie explains: The South African Pasquallie connection has its origins in Montagu. In 1860 three morgen of land was granted to Jan Daniel de Pasquale, who built a tollhouse and became the first toll collector. De Pasquale was born on the island of Sicily and was a member of the British regiment that guarded Napoleon while he was imprisoned on St Helena. This is Trevor’s mother’s side of the family.

Trevor’s favourite poem:

Die kind
by Ingrid Jonker
Die kind wat dood geskiet is deur soldate by Nyanga

Die kind is nie dood nie
die kind lig sy vuiste teen sy moeder
wat Afrika skreeu skreeu die geur van vryheid en heide
in die lokasies van die omsingelde hart
Die kind lig sy vuiste teen sy vader
in die optog van die generasies
wat Afrika skreeu skreeu die geur
van geregtigheid en bloed
in die strate van sy gewapende trots

Die kind is nie dood nie
nòg by Langa nòg by Nyanga
nòg by Orlando nòg by Sharpeville
nòg by die polisiestasie in Philippi
waar hy lê met ’n koeël deur sy kop
Die kind is die skaduwee van die soldate
op wag met gewere sarasene en knuppels
die kind is teenwoordig by alle vergaderings en wetgewings
die kind loer deur die vensters van huise en in die harte van moeders
die kind wat net wou speel in die son by Nyanga is orals
die kind wat ’n man geword het trek deur die ganse Afrika
die kind wat ’n reus geword het reis deur die hele wêreld
Sonder ’n pas

Maart 1960

(From: The South African Family Encyclopaedia, written and compiled by Peter Joyce. Struik Publishers, 1989. Selected Poems, Ingrid Jonker. Jonathan Cape, 1968.

http://www.muurgedichten.nl/jonker.html )

Trevor Pasquallie, who has Sicilian connections.


Trudy Hoefnagels, new to the Department, passionate about teaching Afrikaans, has long associations with the school. Her son Stef is finishing this year as a grade 12 student.

Piet Hugo, married to Riëtte. They have four children. His son Francois lives with his wife in Piemonte in Italy.

Piet and I talked all night about many things, not least Piemonte, where his son currently resides. Piemonte is one of the leading regions for Italian food, and the capital, Turin, has a stunning cathedral. It’s also the centre of the Fiat industry.


Turin, the capital of Piemonte, has a stunning cathedral.
(Source: www.wayn.com)

The Fiat Factory in Turin
(Source: http://www.team-bhp.com )


The wonderful Italian evening at the Harlequin came to an end. There were gifts from colleagues to say thank you.

At the end of the fabulous farewell party there were gifts for Mevrou Hugo, well deserved.


The old-fashioned charm of the Harlequin is hard to beat. It’s an Italian treasure, has been there for ages, and will surely be there to stay for many a decade yet. The evening spent there saying farewell to Mevrou Hugo was a special moment for us all. We ended with a glass of Grappa to send us out into the frisky night. Andre insisted on his Grappa incantation.

The Grappa Incantation: Grapp–ppaaa – a fitting way to end the evening


See a previous review by Paul Murray of the Harlequin (2006).