Ah, pizza… The doughy, cheesy, multi-topped slices of heaven that goes perfectly with just about everything – cocktails and good friends, cold beers and sunshine, or DVDs and rainy weather.
It’s been said that even bad pizza is good pizza, but in the city of Johannesburg where pizza ovens are nearly as numerous as office blocks, there’s absolutely no reason to settle for anything less than the best pizza. Thus, I’ve looked high and low to find the best pizza place in this city since moving here earlier this year, but I recently found it – it’s the newly-renovated Piza e Vino Restaurant & Bar in Melrose Arch!
I arrived at the restaurant with my friend, Marissa, in the early evening, at around 17:30. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the warm and welcoming manager, Andre, as well as the rest of the staff. As soon as we sat down at our table in the outdoor section, we looked at one another and agreed the restaurant had a very upmarket new look – we both loved it!
The restaurant offers an upstairs, downstairs, outdoor and bar section. Inside, it has a very stylish feel to it – think dark woods and simplistic décor. The outdoor section is lovely and breezy, and a bit quieter. The bar, however, is certainly my favourite. Trendy and fully-equipped, it’s a fabulous, vibrant spot you can sit down at for a meal or even just a drink.
To start, Marissa and I ordered up a round of cocktails. Harold, the bar’s very enthusiastic bartender, came over to our table to make a few suggestions. He made everything sound so divine, that we eventually ended up leaving it in his hands to surprise us with something extravagant – and that he did!
For me, Harold created the Amore Bloody Mary – a perfectly spiced tomato juice served with Citron Vodka and a splash of Italian Rosso Vermouth, topped with sun-dried tomato and fresh rocket. Divine! For Marissa, he shook up the Strawberry Collins – a large measure of Inverroche Gin with fresh lemon juice and crushed ice, flavoured with strawberry and topped with soda. This drink was served with a balsamic pipette – nifty, right? Both cocktails were to-die-for! So creative, tasty and well-presented.
While sipping on our gorgeous drinks, Marissa and I ordered two starters to share: The Squid Heads and the Zucchini Fritte. Both dishes arrived promptly, and were just heavenly. Tasty, crispy and just downright delicious, our starters were polished off rather quickly. When our waiter came to clear our table, he informed us that Harold was busy blending up our second round of drinks. We couldn’t wait to see what he’d come up with for us this time around!
Soon enough, Harold came over with two more interesting, very different-looking drinks. For me, he made the Old-Fashioned Smoked Amarena – wild Amarea black cherry muddled with fresh oranges and bitters, stirred cold with Maker’s Mark Bourbon and served on an oak wood-smoked glass. It was smoky and just glorious in taste – something totally different but wonderfully tantalising! For Marissa, it was the Cranberry and Strawberry Daiquiri – a perfect blend of strawberry and cranberry juice, served with Havana Three-Year-Old Rum. Sweet and flavourful, it’s safe to say this is Marissa’s new favourite cocktail, she says!
At this point of the evening, we were on a pretty good level – yup, Harold knows how to pour a great cocktail if you catch my drift – and were ready to tuck into some more fabulous food. After perusing all of the mouth-watering pasta and pizza options on the menu, I decided on the Parma Verace pizza – prosciutto crudo and fresh rocket – with extra fresh chilli and Parma ham. Trying to avoid the carby goodness, Marissa opted for the Pollo Valdostana – a crumbed chicken breast topped with béchamel and napolitana sauce, grana padano and hickory ham, served with a mini garden salad.
Our main meals arrived within good time, and were delightful. My pizza was simply sublime – I have no other words. That’s a huge compliment coming from a self-proclaimed pizza snob like myself, I’ll have you know! Marissa thoroughly enjoyed her meal, too. She said that the chicken breast was succulent and that the toppings were scrumptious and made for a very delicious meal. We agreed that we’d both certainly return for these divine meals!
After noshing on so much fantastic food, we didn’t have much room left for dessert, but we somehow made a plan. As per our waiter’s recommendations, I went for the Crème Brûlée – a traditional custard classic with a mixed berry twist and a caramelised sugar crust – and Marissa had the Chocolate Fondant – a rich and decadent dark chocolate fondant served with a scoop of gelato. Our delicious desserts were the perfect sweet ending to what was one very enjoyable evening!
In addition to the top-notch drinks and food, what I also loved about this restaurant was the vibrant yet somewhat laidback atmosphere. I can’t wait to go back! In my opinion, it’s an awesome spot for after-work drinks, sundowner sessions, a long, lazy lunch or a sophisticated dinner.
The service was friendly and passionate, which made this experience all the more enjoyable. The staff made it abundantly clear that Piza e Vino stands for quality drink and food as well as customer service, which isn’t something you observe so clearly at most restaurants.
by Candice May