by Matthew Sterne
on March 13, 2012
The Horny Grazer Review Four Rhino Rating

A tavola non si invecchia (You don’t age while seated for a meal) ~ Italian Proverb

It’s hard to find a good, consistent restaurant in Cape Town that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Il Leone is good and consistent.

It’s part of the Mastrantonio set up, but it’s more sophisticated than its siblings. In a renovated double-storey building in Green Point, white table cloths and plenty of pine set the scene for the classic Italian fare. We bundled in on a Sunday evening after the Argus. I was carbo-loading after the event that I didn’t do. One of the few evenings I’ve been able to get a table – you really do need to book so they are clearly doing something right.

Il Leone Mastrantonio

Probably one of the reasons for its popularity is that it’s an ‘appropriate’ restaurant. Appropriate for a business lunch, an intimate anniversary dinner or a boisterous dinner with friends. It has broad appeal. Summers are best spent on the vibey stoep but the tables outside are scarce and there’s not much to look at unless you’re a fan of bus depots and street parking.

The service was prompt and attentive from an attractive young African man with an unusually high pitched voice – captivating as he ran through the specials. He was very fond of the phrase ‘I won’t lie to you…’ as South African as ‘Shame’. Thankfully he didn’t lie to us – the prawn linguine was delicious.  It’s the house special. A simple dish made with a generous helping of plump prawns, rocket, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, garlic and a little chilli, but the flavours are perfectly balanced.

Il Leone, Cape Town

To start I had the Caprese di Bufala. At R75 it was probably a little meagre but a nice, light starter if you’re going to have pasta for mains. Mozzarella is made by spinning and then cutting the curd (the Italian verb mozzare means “to cut”). Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo mozzarella) is made from domesticated water buffalo milk, while Fior di Latte is made from fresh cow’s milk.

It’s probably a rather strange game to play now that I write it down, but ‘If you could marry a food stuff what would it be?’ has always been popular in the Bowers household (probably not a great affirmation of my parents’ marriage). As a precocious child my answer was always ‘buffalo mozzarella’. Fresh buffalo mozzarella. One Oompa Loompa’s fist sized ball will set you back R59 in Woolworths but what finer pleasure than to bite into it and taste the creamy centre as you burst through the more robust outer layer. The treat is in the texture. To be really fresh you need to eat it the same day as it is made – do you need another reason to travel to Italy?

Mmmmm, mozzarella

Our meal was washed down with a bottle of Mulderbosch Faithful Hound – I was as happy as a wild boar in truffles. The wine list is fantastic – they even have their own little cellar, but herein lies the rub – the wine is expensive. R205 for the Faithful Hound while a bottle of Kanonkop Kadette will set you back R145. A Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc will set you back R160. If money is no object and you want to try something different, then go for the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (R545 – not to be confused with the cost of an air ticket to New Zealand).

Dinner was rounded off with a Pannacotta ai Frutti di Bosca (R40) – as indulgent and delicious as only cooked cream can be.

Il Leone is a really good restaurant. It would be my regular if the wine list was more reasonably priced.

Il Leone Mastrantonio

Contact:

22 Cobern Street,  Corner of Prestwich
Green Point
Cape Town
South Africa
8001

+27 (0) 21 421 0071