Here's where to get a nostalgic taste of America's Little Italy in Joburg
Septimo in Sandton Square serves up authentic American-Italian classics rooted in family recipes that stretch back over seven decades, writes Janine Walker
If you look at Septimo owner, Paul Lycos' credentials, he has a masters in air and space law from McGill University, a Juris Doctorate from Boston College and a masters in finance from Harvard. You may wonder why he's in the hospitality business, but for the American businessman it is a welcome return to his roots.
After World War 2, his French grandparents opened and ran two Parisian restaurants, L'Ideal Bar near Champs-Elysees and La Comete near Montmartre, both of which exist to this day.
Their daughter Martine (Paul's mother) emigrated to the United States, and it was while she was raising her young family that she, and her Greek husband Athanassios, decided to buy their own establishment in Pennsylvania.Lycos explains: "My father worked on cruise ships for 17 years. My mother had grown up in restaurants in France. Together, they made the decision to buy a restaurant and found it through the classifieds. They inherited the recipes, menu and clientele."
The establishment was called Terry's Italian Restaurant and had been run by Roberto and Teriza Mugione for almost 30 years. Which is how a pair of French/Greek Americans landed up running an Italian restaurant - from 1981 to 2010 - in which young son Paul spent much of his childhood.
The story then moves to South Africa, where Lycos was working in the aviation industry. Walking past an empty space in Sandton Square led Lycos to realise that his past was to become his future, and he made the decision to launch Septimo with his cousin Andreas Kaiafas.Says Lycos: "Septimo is Italian for 'seventh'. It represents the seventh decade of a tradition of preparing family recipes and caring for everyone who takes a seat at our family table.
"Some of the Italian food I bring to Septimo is the Italian I grew up with. It is the quintessential Italian-American cuisine you would find in any restaurant in Little Italy in New York or South Street in Philadelphia.
"There are items we serve that I call my 'nostalgia' dishes, such as chicken parmigiana, ricotta lasagna, homemade ravioli with Napoli sauce, spaghetti and clams and spaghetti and meatballs. These are 'heritage' recipes my father was given and which have been made in the restaurant I grew up in, since its opening in 1951. All pasta is made daily on the premises, just as it was when I grew up."
For those who want a more modern take there is chargrilled octopus served with radicchio; kale salad with crispy pancetta; a 45-day, dry-aged, grass-fed New York strip with a coffee and black pepper rub, and particularly good thin-based pizza from the wood fire oven.THE LOWDOWN
Vibe: It's stylish and contemporary with four spaces in one - a casual on-the-go food area and a restaurant setting for more refined dining.
Price: An average meal for two with wine is about R700.
What to wear: Anything goes, casual and comfortable, to those who like to glam it up a bit.
People who will like it: Wide appeal thanks to its menu and areas; from those on date night, to tourists and families or those who just want something quick to eat.SCORECARD: 16/20
Value for money: 4/5
Address: Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton, Joburg. Telephone: 011-077-7777.