TGIFOOD

LITTLE KISSES

A feast of family love at Bacini’s

‘The menu has changed quite drastically, apart from our pizzas. It is what we are known for so we kept them the same,’ says Carla Napoli. (Photo: Tamia Visagie)

The Napoli family – dad Raimondo, mom Carla, and daughters Tash and Della – describe themselves as ‘a mad Italian famiglia’ who love to eat, drink and celebrate the joys of life together. While some restaurants have remained closed due to lockdown, the Napolis threw themselves into renovating their restaurant, Bacini’s on Kloof, in Cape Town’s City Bowl.

I know I can be a bit difficult at times (ask the family) but sipping my first (ever) Aperol spritz on the new terrace at Bacini’s on Kloof, watching the sun go down over Kloof Nek, I feel quite pleased with myself. 

When my son (the marketing whizz) invited me to the launch of the renovated Bacini’s he put me down for the Covid-19-friendly media event where everyone sat at a safe physical distance. 

“Mom, I really think you should come to the media event, you know what you’re like about people wearing masks and keeping their distance,” he said, patiently, when I suggested pitching up at the “family and friends” part of the evening. 

Snacks served to media guests at the relaunch of Bacini’s on Kloof. (Photo: Tamia Visagie)

He was right, of course. And so I gatecrash the fun, family part of the evening and invite a plus-one friend to join me so that I won’t be sitting on my own. 

After months of Not Going Out I feel quite giddy to be mingling with celebratory Italians. But you can’t throw a party with four generations of Napolis and expect them to stick strictly to protocol.

There were hugs, there were kisses. Nono Napoli (85 and the founder of Amalfi Italian restaurant in Joburg in 1958) was there and so was his great-granddaughter, tiny 18-month-old Marion-Mae. 

The Napoli ‘famiglia’, from left, 18-month-old Marion-Mae, Carla, Tash, Rai, Nono, 85, and Della. (Photo: Tamia Visagie)

Bacini’s (little kisses in Italian) has always been about family.

Raimondo (Rai) Napoli opened Bacini’s on Kloof Street 26 years ago.  Daughters Tash and Della had been nagging him for years to let them get involved in the business, to give it an update. 

“Lockdown gave us a chance to think about what we were doing with the restaurant,” says Carla Napoli, Rai’s wife, to the crowd. “It was closed anyway, with lockdown, and we took the opportunity to do a family renovation project.” 

There are cheers and whistles, glasses are raised as Tash and Della take to the stage to welcome their friends.

I stop worrying and enjoy the joie de vivre and the food brought to the table, a series of delicious dishes to share for the occasion. “I thought we could eat family-style tonight,” says Carla, to more enthusiastic applause. 

Carla Napoli presents a table with a plate of prawns to share on opening night at Bacini’s. (Photo: Tamia Visagie)

Our waiter arrives with two platters of golden zucchini nuggets crusted with panko Parmesan crumbs  for the table. There is a swirl of basil aïoli to dip them in. There are grilled prawns. And arancini balls made with arborio rice, filled with mozzarella and ham and served with an aromatic, spicy sauce of garlic, chilli, cumin and paprika. 

Carla encourages us to order our main meal off the menu and I opt for Chicken al Limone while my friend orders Beef Fillet with Porcini Sauce. My succulent chicken breast, served with roasted Mediterranean vegetables and chips, has just the right amount of lemon. Halfway through I realise I have over-indulged in the antipasti because I can’t finish my chicken but I get to take it home for lunch the next day. The tender fillet was complemented by porcini and creamy au gratin potatoes. 

I ask Carla why they decided to renovate during lockdown, a time when many restaurants have struggled, some forced to close their doors for good. 

We had been thinking about doing something and during lockdown we had the time to really think about what we wanted and decided that it was a great opportunity to do the renovations,” says Carla. 

“It was a family affair with our daughters Tash (owner of two Nourish’d cafés, one cosily tucked under Bacini’s and the other in Obs) and Della, and luckily it was also the year my hubby decided he was going to listen to his wife and not argue.”

Mother and daughter, Carla and Della Napoli, work well together. (Photo: Tamia Visagie)

Della was working with Carla in her travel business but resigned in March 2020 to help her father with the restaurant. “When lockdown hit we persuaded our parents to let us help them to renovate the restaurant, open it up and modernise it,” says Della, at 26, four years younger than Tash. “I’ve been working at Bacini’s on and off since I was 14, somehow I always get pulled towards Bacini’s. I guess it’s in my blood.”  

Tash, mom to Marion-Mae, is less involved now that Bacini’s is up and running. “Initially, I helped with concept and renovation ideas,” she says. “I would give my input and we would all work off one another. However, now I am more focused on Nourish’d than Bacini’s because I know my family is doing a perfect job. They also know I’m always around to help and give feedback whenever needed.” 

I’m curious to know how their regular customers feel about the new-look Bacini’s, famed for its thin-crust wood-oven pizzas. 

Bacini’s manager Della Napoli delivers a famous thin-crust oven-baked pizza. (Photo: Tamia Visagie)

“I think, for the most part, people are happy that we are back. The general feeling is ‘we were so scared you guys had closed down and we are so happy to see the new Bacini’s’,” says Carla.

“Ninety-nine point nine percent are loving it. Even our regulars are saying that it was time for a change.

“The menu has changed quite drastically, apart from our pizzas. It is what we are known for so we kept them the same.” 

Bacini’s new chef Eva De Jesus and her mozzarella and ham arancini balls. (Photo: Tamia Visagie)

Along with a new and improved terrace, updated bar and cool décor, there’s a new chef in the kitchen, Eva De Jesus, who came from La Parada, and produces impressive Italian dishes, some with a twist. Like the arancini balls, oozing with cheese and ham instead of the traditional mince.

Bacini’s is also serving meals all day. “We are now doing breakfast, fresh bread daily, cold deli foods, dry groceries, fresh veg and flowers.” (The flowers on display on the night I am there are gorgeous).

“In November 2020 we will also be introducing picnic baskets and gourmet sandwiches.”

Picnic baskets make sense with Kloof Nek, Table Mountain and the beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton so close.

The party was held the night before we shifted to Level 1 of lockdown so we had to be on our way home before 10pm.

There was no time for dessert and I was disappointed and told my millennial I’d like a slice of Bacini’s New York Style baked cheesecake delivered some time. On the day we move house, at lunchtime, I find myself staring into an empty fridge, contemplating a piece of bread with peanut butter for lunch, when there’s a cheering sound.

“I’ve brought lunch,” calls my son when he arrives at the new house, arms laden with paper packages, and I fall upon the goodies. There’s a salmon and cream cheese bagel from my favourite Muizenberg hangout, Harvest Café, a Dirty Chai and the requested slice of creamy Bacini’s cheesecake. Clever boy. 

Despite being difficult (or perhaps because of it) I get to have my cheesecake from Bacini’s at home. Ah, family. I love it when a plan comes together. DM/TGIFood

Bacini’s on Kloof, 177 Kloof Street, Cape Town. Call 021 423 6668

Although the private family launch event was a relaxed affair, Bacini’s follows all recommended Covid-19 protocols.

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