Since opening the doors in 2014, BOCCA has cemented itself as one of the hottest eateries on Bree Street, Cape Town’s gourmet boulevard. Now, with new owners – not to mention a revamped menu and refreshed décor – BOCCA is buzzing with a new Italian-inspired energy.
New owners Guido and Adnana Brambilla bring decades of experience in international hospitality to the Mother City. Before taking the keys to BOCCA the pair were based in Bermuda; Guido as Executive Chef for a major international hotel, while Adnana was in charge of sales and marketing for a collection of respected restaurants.
BOCCA – ‘mouth’, in Italian – proved to be the perfect opportunity, and after a month of renovation the new-look restaurant is ready to introduce Capetonians and tourists to a new style of urban Italian cuisine, tapping into a global trend of upscale eateries offering a refined yet relaxed dining experience.
“We wanted to create a space where people can experience a taste of modern Italian cuisine,” says Adnana. “You can come by yourself and sit at the counter for a glass of wine and a few small plates, or arrive as a group and experience a selection of dishes. It’s really a place for people to connect over food.”
That concept comes to the fore in the ‘BITES’ section of Guido’s new menu, where authentic Italian flavours are refined into a mouth-watering selection of small plates ideal for sharing.
Think local Stracciatella with roasted cherry tomatoes and confit eggplant. The Panzanella salad of sourdough and seasonal tomatoes is another sure-fire hit, while the Polpo of Atlantic octopus with potatoes and basil pesto is a classic Mediterranean-inspired plate.
“This section is all about uncomplicated Italian flavours, the kind you would enjoy if you were invited for dinner in an Italian household,” explains Guido.
The ‘CRISPY’ section is another perfect window into the new flavours of BOCCA. There is Ortofritto of zucchini, asparagus and artichokes. Want something meaty? Don’t miss the Polpettine meatballs of beef, pork and lamb, all to be dipped into a fresh ‘mayo verde’. Prefer seafood? Try the delicious Misto of calamari, white bait, prawns and mussels.
“These dishes work so well when you’re dining in a group, with a selection of plates to share around the table,” adds Guido. “But for couples, or people dining by themselves, the portion sizes still allow you to order a few plates to discover different flavours.”
Of course no Italian menu would be complete without pasta, and under ‘GRAINS’ Guido has created a selection of plates that will challenge and inspire local palates.
Using imported Rummo pasta – “This is the best durum wheat pasta you can get in South Africa,” says Guido – diners can look forward to everything from slow-baked Ragù with fusilli, to the fragrant Basilia. This dish of rigatoni tossed in home-made basil pesto and green beans is an authentic taste of the traditional flavours of Liguria.
The Cassiopipa is also sure to have local foodies buzzing. This Venetian seafood ragù on penne is traditionally infused with oriental spices, a nod to the city’s long history as a trading port. It’s a dish that finds its perfect southern expression in Cape Town, another harbour city where the spicy fragrance of Cape Malay cooking has long wafted out of local kitchens.
BOCCA has always been famous for its pizza, and long-time fans will be happy to hear little has changed. The imported Acunto oven – which cooks pizzas in 90 seconds, at temperatures topping 450°F – remains in place, with the dough respecting the Verace Pizza Napoletana process of slow fermentation and extended proving before baking.
“Of course, every pizza is thrown by hand, and rolled in a specific way to puff up very quickly in the oven,” adds Guido, who says the only change is one that will, happily, allow diners to enjoy even more pizza!
On the new menu the ‘PIZZETTE’ are rolled smaller (roughly 16cm across) than a traditional pizza, allowing for experimentation and sharing around the table.
“Right now, if you order a pizza in a restaurant, that’s it. You have no more appetite to discover other flavours,” explains Adnana. “With a pizzette, you can order a few different flavours for the table.”
Even with the ability to order a selection, diners will be hard-pressed to choose from the array of innovative combinations.
Of course there’s a classic margherita, but also look for the superb Amatriciana of guanciale and pecorino. The Smoked is inspired by the flavours of southern Italy, with smoked scamorza cheese and zucchini marinated in vinegar, mint and garlic; while the signature Bocca comes topped with prosciutto, stracciatella and artichokes.
Once the wood-fired pizza oven is finished for the night, the residual heat is put to good use as larger cuts of beef, lamb, poultry and pork are seasoned and slow-roasted overnight. These find a home in the following day’s meaty ‘ARROSTI’ plates. Angus brisket braised in red wine is shredded and served on rustic sourdough, topped with a drizzle of cooking jus and salsa verde. Lamb leg enjoys a similar treatment, here with wild mushrooms, thyme and plenty of garlic.
A little dolce neatly rounds out the new menu, with ‘LAST STOP’ putting a modern spin on classic Italian desserts. There’s Tiramisu with Mascarpone Cream, and a small platter of local cheeses, but also look for the adventurous Pineapple Carpaccio with Muscadet marinade and pineapple fritters, or fresh Lemon Curd with chocolate crumble and seasonal strawberries.
“We expect the menu to change four times a year, as I really want to work with the seasons,” adds Guido, who has already tapped into leading local suppliers, including charcutier Richard Bosman and respected cheese producer Puglia. “I have tasted so many olive oils and meats and cheeses, and I don’t see any reason to use imported Italian products when there is such wonderful produce made right here in Cape Town.”
That dedicated, hands-on approach extends to the Italian hospitality diners can expect at BOCCA, with Guido and Adnana personally looking after the kitchen and front-of-house operations.
But it’s not just new owners and a new menu that diners can look forward to.
A striking décor revamp has added a more modern flair to BOCCA, from the motif of shimmering green tiles to a striking signature wall drawing the eye upstairs. Here new leather banquettes have softened the mezzanine space; adding a layer of contemporary comfort, while counter seating allows couples and solo diners to admire the bustling kitchen below. On the street side terrace, communal counter seating similarly faces the kitchen, contributing a sense of lively informality to the space.
Alongside the bustling kitchen is the vibrant bar area where, inspired by the Milanese tradition of Aperitivo, locals and tourists can stop by for signature cocktails, craft beer, or a glass of wine from the curated selection of local boutique estates.
From delectable small plates to unforgettable pizzette, there’s plenty to please the mouth at BOCCA this summer.
BOCCA is open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday from noon until 22h00. Please note that last orders are taken at 21h30.
BOCCA is situated at The Block, corner of Bree St & Wale Street, Cape Town City Centre. For more information visit www.bocca.co.za. For bookings call 021 422 0188 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Connect on social media via @BoccaCT on Twitter; @boccaCT on Facebook; and bocca_ct on Instagram.