It looks to me as though Da Guido’s Trattoria, that once hugely popular Italian eatery which successfully translocated from Leopold Takawira Street to Montagu Avenue Shopping Centre, is nearly ready to re-open following re-building after a devastating fire which swept through the shopping mall a couple of years ago.
Towards the end of its immediate last incarnation, the restaurant’s once trademark great value and beautifully cooked Italian peasant comfort food had plummeted to insipid sadza and “bones”, skinny road-runner huku and gochaed, gristly steaks, sold in what was little more than a hard-drinking shebeen, shaking to gut-churning music.
So I wait with bated breath to see what route the new-look Da Guido’s will take.
My son, Rhoderick (very soon to be Rhoderick William Miller MSc), was at Prince Edward and still talks fondly of the school’s near neighbour restaurant and the grand pizzas cooked there. He and his sister, Adele, almost certainly had their first meals “out” there. It was a great family favourite.
The name Da Eros Trattoria, unerringly reminds me of the original Da Guido’s and the atmosphere and cuisine is somewhat similar, which perhaps ain’t so surprising seeing as general manager/front-of-house specialist Maurizio Vadala, who returned from Europe to run Da Eros when it opened in August, once ran “Guido’s” (when it was a fine operation) . . . and the Italian Club, when they banqueted for 500, and Cortina Ice-Cream and the massively popular Italian Bakery: a hands-on professional.
Confusingly, there was another Eros (the Greek god of love . . . surely Italian-themed gaffs should be named after Rome’s Cupid?) in Harare years ago, owned by the celebrated Sardinian Sandro: he of the eponymous night club and restaurant fame.
I was at the official launch of Da Eros in mid-August and have returned about six times since.
I enjoy its position, in East Road, Avondale (along with other culinary winners: Mojo’s, The Fishmonger and Great Wall), near REPS.
I love eating outdoors: on Da Eros’ broad shady stoep of the former Colonial dwelling home or in the dappled shade of venerable trees in an attractive garden.
Between the chintzy indoors dining rooms, verandah and garden the restaurant can handle 120 covers, plus swiftly deal with a thriving takeaway trade.
I very much like the food: Italian, gutsy, garlicky and generously portioned; prices are sensibly conservative.
Not a great pizza fan myself, but my guests have raved and aahed about the cheesy-tomato-rich paper-thin crusted products of a traditionally authentic sustainable, purpose-built, wood-fired pizza oven, where temperatures nudge 1 000 degrees centigrade and you can be smilingly served a “pizza-de-action” in seconds.
A nice gesture (reminiscent of the “old” pre-A-Team Guido’s) is a free amuse bouche of pizza-crust-like foccacia bread, still hot, served to guests waiting for sit-down orders.
Anoint it with olive oil (and Da Eros has the best around on its gingham-covered tables), balsamic vinegar, perhaps a smear of butter and salt and pepper and you have a delicious appetiser.
Similarly, AFTER eating starters, salads, mains and/or pudding, a basket of fruit is put on the table for punters to eat a piece or maybe take away, should they be too full.
Limoncello, a citrusy grappa-like, digestif is also served “on the house” and goes wonderfully well with the outlet’s signature coffees.
Not for nothing is Da Eros a direct descendant of Italian Bakery at Avondale SC, with its splendid coffees, but, sadly, often rather “iffy” service!
I haven’t experienced that at Da Eros. Management team is the Prendini family: Italian-Ethiopians last seen running hugely successful “IB”. Nevio Prendini and his lovely, radiant, even when she was heavily pregnant, wife, Nassy, are grafting directors;
Nevio’s father, Vittoria, chairman and financier.
Maurizio is a cousin.
The trattoria is lifestyle-magazine-style pale terracotta walls, wooden doors and heavy tables, cane chairs, tile and marble floors; distinctive red-and-white gingham table cloths crying out for the candle-stoppered, wax-drip-covered Chianti bottles of the 60s and 70s.
Monochrome pix of Italian film stars vaguely recognised from cult sub-titled movies, often grazing pasta, adorn inside walls with other assorted art.
A Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society lunch there on Friday, attracting 19 members, began, for me, with lovely continental bread and butter with melanzane (brinjal-and-tomato spread).
Sadly they’ve recently dropped minestrone soup from the menu, alleging summer in Central Africa is too hot for rib-sticking nourishing peasant potage platters.
I had a generous platter of delightful calamari as a starter course at US$5, my neighbour had it as a mains with chips and salads at (I think) US$12.
Pastas are US$7 or US$8: Bolognaise (called spaghetti al ragu on the menu) lasagna and penne Alfredo among others.
Most expensive pasta is al cartoccio: spaghetti cooked in creamy seafood sauce along with garlic and parsley inside a tightly crimped tinfoil “envelope” at US$12.
Main courses range between US $8 or US$9 (Italian chicken stew with carrots, potatoes, green peppers and garlic) to $15 for mixed fish grill of prawns, calamari and hake, with steaks and meat mixed grill $10/$12.
For US $12, I had (once again!) one of my favourite Italian dishes: a cotoletta Milanese: crumbed, deep-fried chicken breast cooked schnitzel-style with a great mushroom sauce, baked potato, sour cream and chives and seasonal veg with salad.
Puddings are around US$3.
(Take care when ordering “old favourite” dishes at some restaurants.
Following a recent catering wage agreement, a few places immediately hiked the price of meals, often unrealistically, unreasonably and unjustifiably.
I’m off to the Tiger Tournament and will sleuth around on my return!)
Da Eros Trattoria, 86, East Road, Avondale. Tel 332044/0912 653 949. Open 10am (for coffee/ cake) until 10pm. Lunch 12 -3; supper from 6pm; they shut Mondays. Fully licensed: good range of drinks at affordable prices, no corkage charge if you BYOB. Takeaway menu. Child-friendly. Reasonably handicapped friendly, but hokoyo the gents’ toilet step.