I have to be honest and admit that I’ve never been the biggest fan of Italian cuisine and when asked why, my usual response is that I can make most of those meals at home. Pasta, some white or red sauce, mushrooms and a meat of some sort really doesn’t appear too difficult to throw together myself, and so I usually go for something slow braised or a meat that we don’t usually stock at home. That is until I tried Gema Trattoria & Pizzeria.

My wife and I were invited to lunch a few days ago by some friends who insisted Gema Trattoria & Pizzeria was the go-to Italian restaurant in Joburg, so I couldn’t help but take my camera along. I never miss an opportunity to let our readers in on a hidden gem and I can now affirm that they are anything but average!

Located along the quaint Queen Street strip, the building is small and unassuming like so many other great restaurants in this city. I’ve long stopped associating glamour with flavour and it’s served me well so far. The interior is the same: they have a deli stocking authentic Italian charcuterie, olives and cheeses and a small but intimate seating area which fills up at lunch and dinner. Booking a table is advised!

Taking a look at the menu I was immediately impressed with the selection although it didn’t quite live up to the hype. That was until my friends pointed out that there’s a big chalkboard display up on the wall boasting both daily and seasonal items and these meals are absolutely amazing! These regional treats are the things that Italian dreams are made of. We’re talking rabbit polenta with veg; oxtail polenta with roast potato; eland and kudu stew; lamb stinco with roast veg and Baccala with roast potato to name a few. Real fans of Mediterranean food will think they’ve died and gone to heaven.

They have all the classic desserts like tiramisu and tartufo on offer but I think special mention must go to their authentic gelatos and sorbets. They have a bunch of exotic flavours and the best part is that they don’t mind you mixing and matching flavours on your plate. Salute!

All in all we were impressed. I didn’t hear one complaint from our table and the service was excellent. Our one buddy ordered a double espresso to finish and did mention that he felt the roast was a bit burnt for his liking, but I imagine that was just a mistake on the day, as batches of coffee are rarely the same from day to day in general. They even allowed us to split the bill at the end which is always nice considering the alternative which is actually drawing cash (god forbid)!

Serious Italian fans should make sure to go through to Kensington soon for a taste of some authentic Italian flavours, not to mention grabbing a couple of delightful deli treats on your way out. You won’t be disappointed.

Address: 143 Queen Street, Kensington
Contact: 011 622 9716

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Good Italian food is hard to come by but there is hope! Gema Trattoria & Pizzeria in Kensington take Italian to the next level.

  • Venue Name:
    Gema Trattoria & Pizzeria
  • Call:
  • Location:

    Queens Road, Opposite Queens Place, Kensington, Inner City, Johannesburg

  • Opening Hours:
    Mon-Closed Tue – Sun-12 Noon to 3 PM, 6 PM to 10 PM
  • Price Range:
    R 200 for two people (approx.)
  • Type of Cuisine:
    Family Dining

TripAdvisor Traveler Rating

ratingBased on 17 reviews

Jason V Says:

My wife & I stopped by this quaint little family run restaurant one evening for dinner and were very impressed! The quality of the food was incredible & very affordable, as compared to other great...

SABJBotha Says:

We love Gema's! We are regulars. It feels like going to visit family when going to the restaurant. The owners and staff are always friendly. We take all our guests local and foreign for great Italian...

Gavin H Says:

We dine at Gema several times a month. It is a small mom&pop type of place, with authentic italian cooking. The food is always good, and well presented. The waitresses are friendly and efficient. Be...

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