Chef James Diack is a restless guy, he wasn’t content with owning only Coobs, one of our favourite restaurants in Joburg. His next venture was The National in Parktown North, and further afield he then opened The Federal in Melville. Recently came il Contadino, a new hotspot on the increasingly interesting foodie belt from Rosebank to Parkhurst. Situated on the same corner as The National on the busy 4th avenue in Parktown North, il Contadino (English translation: the farmer) is Diack’s move into rustic Italian food.
Ambience: Relaxed (4/5)
Food & Wine: Rustic Italian (4/5)
Service: Excellent (5/5)
Overall: Authentic Mama’s Italian
The restaurant itself is housed in the space formerly occupied by a shabby café. And a great job has been done of the decor. Light and spacey, with furniture and tableware complementing the rustic food theme. There is also a handful of outdoors street-side tables.
FOOD & WINE
The menu is not your typical Italian fare. In truth Joburg has a number of solid classic Italian venues already, so this is a good thing. The emphasis is on tasty rather than fussy dishes, so expect robust flavours and a hearty meal. The menu is not exclusively Italian either and there are some interesting French peasant options. As an added bonus, all dishes are produced from sustainable seasonal ingredients.
We had the wild boar arancini and rustic homemade pâté as starters, followed by a tomato infused gnocchi and the coq au vin. All four dishes were excellent, and the portions were generous. The only disappointment came at desert time. We shared the ricotta-filled beignets, which were unfortunately not cooked through.
In terms of drinks options, there’s a smattering of Italian themed cocktails and on-tap craft beers. But the real star here is the wines. Continuing the tradition of il Contadino’s sister restaurants, the wine list is curated with great care. You should readily find something interesting and new to try and the mark-ups seem very fair.
Finally, Diack’s staff are always well-drilled, so you can expect friendly and efficient service.
19 4th Avenue
Monday – Saturday 7am to 10pm; Sunday 7am to 8pm
Tel: 010 900 1363
For other Equilibrio restaurant reviews click here.