95 AT PARKS: Authentic Italian cuisine with a decidedly meaty bent
Chef proprietor Giorgio Nava opened his first restaurant in Cape Town, 95 Keerom, in 2003 and it remains a classic on the Cape Town food landscape. Since then he has gone on to launch several more eateries, including Carne SA, which focuses on a predominantly meaty menu.
There are two of these in the city bowl and for a while a third resided in a converted homestead in Constantia. I’ve known Nava for many years, and his philosophy has always been to find that winning formula with his menus and stick to that; instead of changing seasonally, he opts instead for retaining the dishes his loyal and longstanding clientele love, and for which they keep returning.
However, after some consideration, Nava decided to change the southern suburbs Carne and rebrand and relaunch it as 95 At Parks. Here you will find his Milanese flair in his popular dishes from 95 Keerom, as well as some which are unique to this particular restaurant. In addition, Nava has added a six-course tasting menu – it changes every three weeks – which is delighting diners.
Nava’s reasoning behind the change is to offer a wider variety to his guests, which is encouraging them to visit again and again, whether it’s for a business meeting or a long, lazy Sunday family lunch in typical multi-course Italian style.
“We believe 95 At Parks fills a need for authentic Italian cuisine in Constantia and that our extended menu appeals both to our lunch time clientele, as well as meat lovers with our wide choice of prime cuts,” says Chef Giorgio who has transformed this period homestead with his unbridled passion and signature eclectic style.
We visited for lunch during a recent Sunday, and began in suitable style with a glass of Astoria 9.5 (or nine dot five) prosecco in the pretty conservatory, where we were also served vegetable tempura and some crispy fried calamari to whet the appetite. A bowl of olives and a basket of different breads – focaccia, crunchy bread sticks, seeded flat bread and crusty ciabatta made from a starter or “mother” dough which originates from a bakery in Milan dating back 150 years – accompany every meal.
We both began with the deconstructed caprese salad, which is a soft ball of burrata which splits open to spill out its milky middle, with mixed tomatoes and basil leaves. Anchovies, olives and capers bring a touch of saltiness, which is much needed with the cheese.
Unable to decide on my primi course – should I have the lamb ravioli (consistently one of my favourites) or the gorgonzola? – I left it up to Nava; all he said was that I would get neither. His choice for me was the I Gnocchi alla Cozze with mussels, tomato and herbs.
For his main course, my gentleman friend had grilled Karoo lamb chops (from Nava’s own farm) prepared simply with olive oil and rosemary, which he said were excellent. I ordered the L’Osso Buco alla Milanese – veal shanks slow cooked in tomato, carrot, celery, onions and herbs. You could not hope for a richer, heartier more perfect winter dish. All mains are served with a choice of side dishes, which include thin cut fries, mash, sautéed spinach, chargrilled broccoli, a salad, or extra focaccia.
I’d make a dreadful Italian because I simply don’t have the capacity to indulge in the long lunches, as much as I want to. I skipped dessert, but my partner loved his bowl of vanilla gelato. “It’s so creamy, like the milk you used to get when we were children,” he commented. Ah yes. Today’s generation will never know the joys of a glass bottle of milk, with a thick layer of cream at the neck and the foil cap which we used to press with our elbow to open.
* 95 at Parks is on 114 Constantia Main Road and is open for lunch and dinner, Tuesdays to Saturdays, and Sunday lunch, with secure parking on the premises.
For bookings call 021 761 0247 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The other restaurants in the 95 Collection are 95 Keerom in the Cape Town CBD, which is open for dinner Mondays to Saturdays, and 95 at Morgenster in Somerset West, which re-opens for the summer season in November.