Uncompromising and unpretentious, The Cousins is a welcoming trattoria serving authentic Italian fare
Walking into The Cousins, you step out of Cape Town and into a small slice of Italy. It’s got the atmosphere of a family trattoria, one that the locals eat at, serving unpretentious food the way it should be, with the owners greeting and chatting with customers. Simone Briganti and Andrea Biondi, cousins from Emilia-Romagna, on the east coast of Italy, opened the restaurant in Barrack Street four years ago and have made a name for themselves with their fresh home-made pastas.
“In Italy, a trattoria only serves the local food of that town,” says Simone, “it’s one way that we have kept our food culture intact.” They make their lasagne the way it is done in their home town of Cesenatico, with green pasta and subtle layers of béchamel, bolognese sauce and just a sprinkling of Parmesan. They are also very firm about the sauces they serve with the six different home-made pastas. “Everything in Italian cooking has a logic, a pattern. Tagliatelle, the widest pasta, is best for a bolognese sauce: the larger surface absorbs more flavour and wraps the sauce,” says Simone. “For ravioli, you need something that doesn’t overwhelm the flavours of the filling, so butter and sage is the perfect sauce. We are famous for not compromising. Our menu is what Italians eat.”
It’s hearty, generous food and really does transport me back to Italy. For starters, we go for chalkboard seasonal offerings of asparagus, served simply with melted butter and Parmesan, and the cozze gratinate: mussels in their shells tucked up with a breadcrumb, herb and chilli topping and baked – a delicious way to highlight the flavour of the mussel without drowning it in a rich sauce. The pasta is the main event here, although there are meat and fish mains too. We enjoy the tagliatelle bolognese, which is rich, deep and satisfying, and the restaurant’s speciality: tagliolini with a cream, thyme and mushroom sauce, expertly tossed at the table in a huge half Parmesan wheel to give that extra seasoning of cheese and theatre. Dessert after all that is pure overindulgence, but the tiramisu is worth it: substantial, creamy with a kick of espresso that has us scraping the glass clean.
The Cousins Italian Restaurant
083 273 9604
Words and Images: Kit Heathcock