Il Giardino Degli Ulivi (the garden of olives) is perfectly nestled within 44 Stanley, a quaint and tranquil marketplace filled with a collection of boutiques, galleries, design studios and cafés. 44 Stanley’s old-fashion charm makes it a must-see hidden area in Johannesburg, and Il Giardino is a restaurant that can’t be missed. You can either eat in The Room, an indoor bright, chandelier decorated room with a cozy, large wooden fireplace, or you can choose to eat in Il Giardino’s courtyard under a grove of olive trees. When I visited, the restaurant was packed to the brim with diners savoring their meals, sipping on a glass of wine from Il Giardino’s extensive cocktail menu.The ambiance is tasteful, relaxed and elegant. The chef, Amori Burger, provides a mouth watering list of innovative daily specials, but the menu also consists of a la carte dishes ranging from homemade pastas and pizzas, fresh and organic salads to Italian classics and hearty meats. I ate the Insalata di Pollo, which was no ordinary chicken salad. The dish is made with a chicken breast stuffed with sundried tomato and ricotta and served on a bed of mixed lettuce, parmesan shavings, rosa tomatoes, red onions, olive and avocado, and finished with a splash of olive oil and a balsamic reduction. I know this is a big statement, but I have to say it was the best salad I have ever eaten. Friends who I ate with also raved about their dishes—from the Italian Burger (a beef patty served on toasted ciabatta topped with tomato, mozzarella, basil pesto and sundried tomato pesto) to a more simple Spaghetti alla Bolognese and a Canelloni Pollo e Spinaci (chicken and ricotta stuffed cannelloni served with a creamy vodka and tomato sauce). No one was disappointed. All plates were well presented, making each bite as memorable as the one before.
On weekdays, Il Giardino also hosts some of South Africa’s most well-known classical and Afrikaans bands. And don’t miss Rian Malan and his jazz band every Sunday! To put it simply, the atmosphere is vibrant and the food is delicious. Il Giardino truly gives you a taste of Italy in South Africa and I plan to become a regular during my three months in Johannesburg. My only regret is that it took me three weeks to find.