Restaurant Review

Delish pasta & Italian pastries: Joburg's Dolci Café hits the sweet spot

When it comes to cooking up authentic Italian dishes, mamma knows best. Just ask Jackie Righi-Boyd and her mother, Luciana Righi of Assaggi fame

21 October 2018 - 00:08 By Janine Walker
Jackie Righi-Boyd and her mother, Luciana Righi, at their restaurant in Craighall Park, Joburg.
Jackie Righi-Boyd and her mother, Luciana Righi, at their restaurant in Craighall Park, Joburg.
Image: Supplied

The gorgeous and talented Jackie Righi-Boyd may have fought against following in her mother's culinary footsteps but it was a battle she was always going to lose, to the eternal delight of Joburg diners.

Righi-Boyd graduated as a psychologist but the lure of the kitchen won in the end - hardly surprising since she comes from a dynasty of restaurateurs and her mother is Super Mamma herself, Luciana Righi of Assaggi, Tre Nonni and Amarcord fame.

After university, Righi-Boyd went to Italy and worked as an apprentice in a pasticceria, learning the art of pastry and cake making.

On her return she and her husband Clayton Boyd - starring in the hit TV series Generations: The Legacy - opened Dolci Café, a small space in Craighall Park serving Italian sweet creations and cakes.

Gradually the restaurant expanded both in size and repertoire and Luciana joined her daughter in the kitchen. It started as one of the city's hidden gems but is now drawing customers from far and wide thanks to its reputation for authentic, honest Italian fare.

The menu has some firm Italian favourites including a number of Luciana's signature dishes such as her delicious asparagus and brie lasagne which came to life nearly 20 years ago after catering a party for one of her children and finding a large brie left over. The homemade melt-in-the-mouth pasta layers interspersed with just the right amount of asparagus, béchamel and brie also made a perfect dish for her Assaggi clientele who couldn't eat the regular lasagne as the ragu sauce contained pork.

There's also cappelletti in brodo - homemade pasta parcels with a salsiccia, pork mince, parmesan and cream cheese filling, floating in a clear veal broth as well as the zucchini fritti (chips) while vitello tonnato (thinly sliced veal in a tuna sauce) makes a light summer dish.

My mother is my master chef ... She imparts years of information no book or course can teach you
Jackie Righi-Boyd

You would do well to leave space for dessert. Jackie's smorgasbord of sweets includes cannoli (cream horns), pasticcini, lemon meringue and bigne (eclairs) as well as tiramisu and the sublime Dolce Della Nonna, Jackie's grandmother's and Luciana's mother's famous dessert comprised of layers of zabaglione, cream, amaretti biscuits, pecan nuts and dark chocolate.

Righi-Boyd says it is "surprisingly easy" working with her mother: "She is my master chef that I learn from every day. She imparts years of invaluable information no book or course can teach you."

Dolci Café has a small but impressive list of South African wines as well as some from Italy. Of course, what would an authentic and fine Italian restaurant be without prosecco? It's available by the bottle (Valdo) or on tap.

• Dolci Café is open Monday to Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Sunday for breakfast and lunch. Visit shop 6, Lancaster Village, 28 Clarence Avenue, Craighall Park, JHB. Call 010-900-2274.