Remo's provides a master class in simple, delicious Italian food

The Gqeberha eatery serves up uncomplicated, classic dishes — and it's a real treat, writes chef Pete Goffe-Wood

29 August 2021 - 00:00 By Pete Goffe-Wood
Remo's Italian restaurant in Baakens Valley provided a master class in uncomplicated, delicious food.
Remo's Italian restaurant in Baakens Valley provided a master class in uncomplicated, delicious food.
Image: Supplied

I have always lamented the fact that too many South African Italian restaurants don't do justice to the simplicity of regional Italian food. Remo's in Gqeberha is an exception.

Benny Masekwameng, my fellow chef and judge, and I popped in for a quick bite while on the road shooting season 7 of Ultimate Braai Master recently, and ended up spending the better part of the afternoon there. When we're travelling we try to seek out pockets of simplicity, where we can experience good home-style cooking.

The menu caters for all tastes but the vast majority of the dishes are Italian classics. We chose from the antipasti section and opted for the calamari starter, offered in piccoli or grande, at R80 and R160 respectively.

The calamari tubes had been expertly grilled and tossed together with zucchini ribbons and dressed in the most delicious lemon butter sauce. The calamari was divinely tender and the crowning glory on the dish was a small pile of dressed rocket leaves, the crunch, freshness and pepperiness adding good texture and superbly balancing the acidic sauce.

Other starters that grabbed our eye were the per la tavola board of cheeses, pickles and ciabatta, the buratta with salsa verde, toasted walnuts and bruschetta, and the bagnette alla mamma, which is anchovies marinated in parsley, garlic, chilli and olive oil.

Remo's has a well-selected and reasonably price wine list, plus there are some other more premium gems in its cellar. We had an excellent Muldersbosch Steen op Hout to accompany our starters and opted to spoil ourselves with a Newton Johnson Walker Bay Pinot Noir, seeing that it was International Pinot Noir Day.

For the main course I chose one of my all-time favourites, melanzane alla Parmigiano, a dish where an understanding of simplicity is paramount. The dish should consist only of aubergine, a homemade tomato sauce and cheese, and if any one of these elements is not perfect, the entire dish is ruined.

This was melanzane heaven. It was a massive portion but was so delicious I managed to hoover up the entire dish and then mop the plate clean with bread.

The calamari starter.
The calamari starter.
Image: Pete Goffe-Wood
Pasta alla scoglio.
Pasta alla scoglio.
Image: Pete Goffe-Wood

The second main, a gnocchi gorgonzola, was another master class in simplicity — the lightest gnocchi I've tasted in a long time with a rich and piquant gorgonzola cream, perfectly balanced with the toasted walnuts that were crumbled on top.

Dante Cicognini, the owner, imparted his secret to the lightness of the glorious gnocchi, but I won't divulge it here. Suffice to say he is very particular about the type of potato he uses.

Because we are greedy, hungry boys, there was a third main, the mercurial pasta alla scoglio — perfectly al dente spaghettini tossed with expertly cooked prawns, calamari and clams, a subtle touch of garlic, a smattering of tomato and basil and the perfect tingle of fresh chilli, brought alive with a squeeze of lemon.

Only time constraints and full bellies kept us from staying for dinner.

Dessert was not for us on the day but we did end with an excellent espresso — Cicognini has the beans flown in from his home town in Italy — and a chilled glass of limoncello.

Remo's Italian is located at Remo’s Alabaster Road in Baakens Valley. The eatery is open Saturday to Tuesday from 7am - 4pm, Wednesday - Friday 7am - 10pm. For reservations, call 060-998-0789.