DA Eros is one of my favourite restaurants.
OK I have a favourite Chinese, a favourite Indian, favourite steakhouse, favourite fish and seafood speciality, favourite top-of-the-range five-star plus fine dining establishment, favourite coffee shop and favourite club.
But Da Eros gets a personal top-billing because it’s a lot nearer my office than the runner up on my list of realistic Italian eateries, is close to my bank and has affordable food smartly served in pleasant al fresco surroundings.
Food there has always been good and if you ask my opinion, (which, by reading this column you are!) has recently got even better.
Many readers were thoroughly miffed at finding THEIR favourite outlets closed week after week over the Christmas/New Year period.
General consensus of subscribers’ attitudes was that restaurateurs are, by their chosen calling, public servants and should be there to damned well serve the public when it demands to be served. Especially at holiday time with out of town and foreign visitors to amuse!
Well, the Prendinis, the Italian-Ethiopians who were formerly with Italian Bakery at Avondale proper and have run Da Eros, on East Road for about 18 months, plead guilty to shutting for a month.
But as they spent most of that period visiting Rome and Tuscany and a whole host of cities, towns and holiday resorts ending in vowels, studying latest Italian food trends and sourcing pukkah products, maybe they can be forgiven?
A friend boasts to me he can spend ten-bucks at Da Eros and be full to bursting with qood quality graze and at least one drink, which is something even some of our sports clubs can’t claim now, following all-round knee-jerk inflation-causing price increases.
If I’d merely called in for a quick, nutritious, filling lunch last Thursday, I swear I could also have eaten for under a tenner. But I’m not sure I’d have wrung a 1 000 word restaurant review from the fare.
My chosen starter was a new (to Da Eros) platter of antipasto misto, a delicious and attractive plate of thinly sliced specially imported lovely lightly salted Parma ham with Italian salami (also imported), a fistful of wonderful ruby red olives (probably imported) and chunks of artichoke heart.
This dish was US$7, but before it was served (with bread sticks) a basket of heavenly artisanal mixed breads had arrived with butters and melanzane (a moreish brinjal-and-tomato spread), garlic sauce etc. A crunchy complimentary side salad competently complemented the course.
So, had I called it a day there, there would have been US$3 change out of US$10 and I would still have got a piece of fruit — complimentary again — to finish the meal or take away and a shooter glass of Limoncello, the fiery Italian digestif, which slips down well with the restaurant’s trademark coffees.
I was amazed to have a small platter of calamari rings also served by head waiter Ginger Olivier; I hadn’t ordered any. But chef-proprietor Nevio Prandini soon followed. He’d cooked the seafood using a new method discovered in Italy on his working holiday and asked my opinion.
Which was: “Quite delicious”: but I swore an oath of secrecy as to the cooking method. The squid (from Mozambique) taste authentically of the ocean. They were so scrumptious they didn’t need the accompanying mayo many Zimbos would demand.
I hadn’t realised a blackboard special dish, linguine marinara, was also new. I’ve often eaten their seafood pasta marinara cartoccio, served cooked in a crimped, sealed tinfoil “envelope”.
A grand dish, but it can be too rich on occasions as the seafood is cooked in cream. Spoon a handful or two of grated parmesan over warm cream covering rich pasta and you probably won’t want to return to work after lunch.
Linguine is similar to spaghetti, but a bit wider. Studded with more calamari, mussels and line fish, rich with garlic, a hint of chili and “hoboes” of tomato and tomato sauce, I simply couldn’t finish this course — possibly because crusty continental bread was liberally dipped into the fishy goodness.
This dish is a very reasonable US$10. Even better value when you hear it comes automatically with pudding!
And that was a lightly coffee-flavoured mousse I approached warily. Coffee ice-cream is my least favourite flavour and I always leave coffee-filled chocolates to someone else. Conversely I like most styles of coffee as a drink. This dreamy java-flavoured dessert was delightful.
This was my first visit to Da Eros of 20012 (but, of course, they were shut for much of it!) indeed only a second visit since their first anniversary party in August, when they invited 100 of their best punters and suppliers to a free beano. (A nice touch.)
The restaurant with its quintessentially Italian green gingham table cloths (but no candle-wax covered Chianti bottles!) was packed, as is usual. There were several members of the extended Prandini family on the airy stoep, including visitors from UK, France, Italy and Ethiopia, eating as deep-brown-voiced Italian tenors sang light opera and popular overtures on a grand sound system.
Several relatives ate Costelle de Mayale, another new dish comprising half-a-kilo of barbecued pork ribs in a sticky sauce with chips, veg and a side salad at US$14. I admired their appetites and digestions and hope to have space to reproduce a picture of this piggy delight.
Beers are US$2. They have a full range of Cape wines from US$12. According to Nevio, corkage is US$2 “If we remember to charge…which we rarely do!”
There’s plenty of safe parking in the grounds of this indoor-outdoor restaurant based — once again — on a former colonial-style dwelling.
They open 10am (for coffee and cakes) until 10pm Tuesdays to Sundays. Booking is always sensible and vital on Sunday lunch when there’s usually live entertainment. Tel 332044 0776-218-272.
Dusty’s rating four-and-a-half stars February 2012.