Successful Italians in Cape Town: two nice stories

Friulan Attilio Dal Piaz and Michela Sfiligoi with Ayama Wines, and Livornese Andrea Volpe with Pesce Azzurro, a seafood osteria

10-01-2019
Michela Sfiligoi and Attilio Dal Piaz, founders

Michela Sfiligoi and Attilio Dal Piaz, founders at Ayama, in Western Cape in Cape Town (South Africa)

We start the year with one, in fact two, feel good stories. Here are three Italians who have been working in South Africa for years, one in the restaurant business, and the other two in the wine industry.

Let’s follow a chronological order. In 2004 Attilio Dal Piaz, an experienced agronomist from Friuli and Michela Sfiligoi, also from Friuli and the owner of a wine estate, fell in love with South Africa and decided to buy a farm in Paarl, one of the largest rural and wine regions in Western Cape. From that moment on, they revolutionised the original production of the farm which at the time made grapes to be sold to other wineries and plums for export, and started making high quality wine under their label Ayama, which in the Xhosa language means “someone you can count on”.

The Ayama Wines estate, Paardenberg Road, Windmuel 7630, +27218698313

The Ayama Wines estate, Paardenberg Road, Windmuel 7630, +27218698313

The wines they successfully made since the start are the multi-awarded Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Viognier and Petit Syrah, mostly exported to Asia, Northern Europe and Canada (they make 350,000 bottles per year). But the real Italian-style turning point arrived in 2007 when Attilio and Michela decided to import some cuttings of Vermentino from Gallura and tried to grow them on the hot and sandy soil of South Africa.

After completing the long bureaucratic procedures to import non-indigenous grapes  and after lots of work, at last in 2016 it was time for the first harvest of Vermentino. Thanks to the South African climate and to a good oenologist, Henry Kotze, this resulted in an exceptional wine. It was the source of great satisfaction for these two entrepreneurs who thanks to the great passion, experience and hard work they dedicate to their farm and wines can achieve excellent results. Apart from the wine, they also produce a very good olive oil. Attilio and Michela also work with the local community and founded a nursery for the children of their workers, an example of very forward-looking management.

Adriano Volpe, patron at Pesce Azzurro

Adriano Volpe, patron at Pesce Azzurro

Chef Andrea Volpe from Livorno, after first approaching the country in 2007, moved to South Africa in 2012. He initially worked in various restaurants in Cape Town and four years ago opened a fish osteria called Pesce Azzurro, in Woodstock, an alternative and up-and-coming neighbourhood. The debut was troubled: Andrea is not exactly diplomatic and often argued with South African clients while the Italians praised him.

Nobody ever added Parmigiano on pasta with mussels, so no, I’m not giving you any. No way I’ll serve tartare sauce with mixed fried fish. And so on, for the amusement of the Italian community. Now, several years later, Andrea can count on a clientele of aficionados of all nationalities. His food is based on very fresh raw materials and it’s simple but very elegant and tasty.

Pesce Azzurro, Roodebloem Road 113, Cape Town, Tel. +27214472009

Pesce Azzurro, Roodebloem Road 113, Cape Town, Tel. +27214472009

His specialties are raw fish, ceviche and carpaccio, first courses with incredible fish sauces, such as spaghettoni Felicetti with squid ink, the best mixed fried fish in Cape Town and much more depending on what the market has to offer. The pleasure of dining at Pesce Azzurro is the fact you don’t have to look at the menu, but you just ask the chef what he recommends. A real Mediterranean enclave by the Ocean.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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The food world in and near Cape Town told by Giovanna Sartor