Tucked away in a small suburban shopping centre, Café del Sol is a manifestation of a timeless ideal – following your passions and infusing love into all you do is a recipe for success.
Café del Sol won the 2012 Eat Out Award and was ranked number 1 out of 243 restaurants in Johannesburg on the TripAdvisor website, also last year. But this is not a typical Italian restaurant by any means; dining at Café del Sol is a feast for the soul and the senses – an urban escape where heart and passion has been interwoven with every aspect from the decor and menu to the ambience and service.
Infused with heart and inspiration
Located in the Olivedale Corner Shopping Centre, the pavement outside is scattered with wrought iron and mosaic tables and colourful couches, shaded by a vine canopy. The signage above the door offers a Zen-like invitation to enter ‘a place to meet, a time to think, a space to be’ and once inside, patrons are met with a sophisticated interior showcasing attention to detail with bonsai centrepieces, rosebuds in miniature teacups and displays of glass ornaments.
Café del Sol was launched six years ago by mother Luciana Viljoen and her children, Chiara and Ryan. Luciana was born in South Africa, but has lived most of her life in Italy.
“As in any typical Italian family, we grew up around food,” laughs Chiara. “Nonna, our grandmother, was an amazing cook and her recipes were authentic Italian recipes passed down through many generations. My mother learnt from her, while I learnt from my mother.” C
As a family, they found themselves wanting more than the rat race could provide, and they came to the realisation that they had the same desire – “to touch people’s hearts through food,” says Chiara. “Italians love people and cooking for them; we are born home entertainers. Our friends were always asking us to open a restaurant and share Nonna’s recipes. We used to laugh it off because we had no experience and didn’t even know where to start.” It was not until one of their clients encouraged them to take the plunge and offered to help that the idea started to crystallise.
Tentatively starting out with one retail space, today’s Café del Sol occupies three and spills onto the pavement. Harnessing each family member's best talents, Luciana is in charge of front of house, Chiara runs the kitchen and Ryan works on the operations, finance and beverage side.
The entire concept of Café del Sol was inspirational and founded on the most important ingredient – love. “We train our staff to think about their loved ones and then to transfer that feeling into their work, because energy transfers into food,” Chiara says. The family also researched hundreds of quotations from great leaders and humanitarians who had inspired them and these uplifting messages now adorn the restaurant entrance and walls in beautiful calligraphy.
Authentic Italian with a contemporary twist
“All our food is fresh, authentic, free range and cooked to order – we don’t compromise on quality,” says Chiara. “The ingredients are bought from Italian importers like Adriatic and Galla Foods.” The menu takes Italian fare to another level with fascinating combinations of flavours and a contemporary twist.
The lunch/dinner menu features Falklands calamari tubes filled with red pepper, green Sevillano olives, capers, ricotta cheese, Grana Padano Parmesan and a touch of chilli, served with capellini (angel hair pasta); seafood risotto combining prawns, calamari and smoked salmon (a favourite among patrons) or beef fillet pan-fried in a homemade balsamic and port reduction, served with spring onion mashed potato and a rustic rocket salad.
And forget boring pasta sauces – at Café del Sol adventurous choices abound, such as a slow-cooked stew of pork and beef mince with tomato, carrot, celery, fresh oregano and ‘other secret Nonna ingredients’, vodka flambéed salmon in a creamy Napoletana sauce with leek and asparagus or porcini mushrooms flambéed in Jack Daniels and sautéed with fresh garlic and parsley, a dash of cream and turmeric.
Dessert can only be described as sinful art-on-a-plate: Italian crêpes brushed with Nutella and drenched in Grand Marnier liqueur and fresh orange sauce or crème brûlée accompanied by biscotti, homemade caramel ice cream and a scattering of ‘gold dust’, just to name a few.
Firmly on the map
Café del Sol lends itself to a wide range of dining experiences from romantic, intimate dinners to exuberant family celebrations and corporate lunches. Its popularity continues to grow and it often impossible to arrive as a ‘walk-in’, even early in the week when most other Johannesburg restaurants are quiet, and find a table to be available, so booking is essential.
Cnr Olive & President Fouché
Olivedale Corner Shopping Centre
Tel: 011 704 6493