A trip along the Garden Route necessarily requires a pit stop at Caffe Mario. This buzzing Italian cafe at the Knysna Waterfront is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, though I’ve only ever called there at lunch.
Intricate interiors: its all in the details
The comfy, orange-hued interior immediately makes you feel like parking off all day; the feeling is amplified when sitting outside by the water’s edge and lazily watching the boats go by.
Caffe Mario’s generously topped thin-crust pizzas (they also do wheat-free) are legendary, but my husband and I decided to go for pasta for a change. We were there just after the summer holiday madness, when Knysna locals typically heave a sigh of relief at having one of their best-loved spots mostly to themselves again.
There’s a long list of salads, pastas and pizzas to choose from, and from discreetly listening to diners around us, it’s clear everyone has their favourite.
What’s on the menu
The menu also includes panini (baguette-style rolls), antipasti and seafood. Then there are meaty mains with an authentic Italian touch, such as osso buco (braised veal shank) or saltimbocca (veal escalopes with prosciutto). These are at the top of our list of meals to try next time.
My partner was delighted with his choice of lumaconi – baked pasta in the shape of huge snail shells liberally filled with mince, bacon, spinach and mushrooms in a creamy tomato sauce. My Sorrento pasta with smoked salmon, spinach and mushroom in a cream sauce was also worth a repeat order.
No visit to Caffe Mario is complete without an Aperol Spritz: that refreshing, almost luminous-orange Italian summer drink made with Aperol, prosecco and soda water. Sip slowly: it is heady (not to mention on the pricey side).
Desserts are quite limited but you’d be wise to choose something authentic like tiramisu or cassata. Alternatively, an expertly made macchiato won’t disappoint.
Taste for yourself
044 382 7250
Words: Louise Liebenberg
Images: Louise Liebenberg, Salvelio Meyer