An Italian restaurant set in a banana plantation on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, Casa Toscana is a culinary “secret” known internationally. Serving up Italian food in a converted farmhouse near Port Edward, it has twice won the “Premio Ospitalta’ Italiana” award.
In a simple, homely yet elegant interior we were seated in what seemed to be the dining room area of the house. Praise be the wine list! At last, a well-curated selection of wines by the glass, suited to the food. Interesting varieties and styles were available, from a South African Cap Classique, to Italian Pinot Grigio.
For starters we chose the beetroot salad and the prawns in a roasted red pepper and smoked paprika sauce. The roasted beetroot was paired with Gorgonzola, green beans and pecan nuts, an excellent combination of textures, with the slight sweetness of the beetroot offsetting the tanginess of the cheese. The prawns stood their ground with the robust redness of the sauce, but my bubbly was not well-suited to the spiciness. A grenache or Pinot Noir would have worked better.
The menu includes grilled T-bone served sliced off the bone, chicken escalope with marsala and mushrooms, and pan-fried calamari with olives and tomatoes. Pasta dishes come in two size options – piccola or grande – and are made with fresh pasta. I opted for the sublime sea urchin roe with spaghetti. It was heaven. Offsetting the lovely taste of ocean and the fishy saltiness of the roe was a slight lemony-ness and sweet pan-fried tomatoes.
My partner chose one of the few vegetarian options; porcini and white mushroom tagliatelle with a dash of cream. His buttery Pinot Grigio proved a perfect partner to the fungi. To end, we shared a refreshing strawberry sorbet.
The service was friendly and non-intrusive and the food arrived after a civilized 15 minutes. Casa Toscana is a grown-up restaurant where no pizzas are served. In the daytime patrons sit on the veranda and are treated to views over the Mpenjati lagoon.
Probably the only critique I have is that we barely managed to find it. Casa Toscana is not the kind of place where you drive past and just stop in. You can’t see it from any road, and finding it at night can be a problem, as the signposts are not well-lit.
Bookings are essential, closed Monday and Tuesday.