Nona Fontana always used to say “meglio tardi che mai” whenever Massimo and I would arrive late to lunch on a Sunday after mass. And though I’m late to this party, by some years, it’s gratifying to see that the hype which the cool young pretty things who always seem to know where to go, was well deserved. Since Giulio’s Café opened, there has been an explosion of small, hole in the wall eateries and coffee shops, so much so that it has become so difficult to find something that everyone agrees on. I know first world problems or gastro privilege, whichever hashtag floats your boat, but at a client’s suggestion, we crossed the threshold at the appointed time to this gem on Loop Street.
“Opening a café has been a dream of mine since I was a young boy. Most of my childhood was spent in the kitchen, watching my mom and nonna use their love of food and cooking as a way to bring our rather large family together around the table. After all, the only way to quiet down 30 rambunctious Italians is to put food in their mouths” explains chef and owner Giulio Loreggian.
Having once worked under the infamously temperamental and difficult Jamie Oliver (at his London eatery Recipease), it’s nice to see that a boy made good in the big city packed up and came home. Giulio has masterfully managed to walk that fine line translating the culinary craft learnt with commercial sensibility creating this authentic space within the bustling heart of our city. With interiors designer Michael Chandler, he has managed to transform a once drab space into one that casually reflects the Italian influences of the personality while being modern and trendy at the same time.
Though full when we arrived, the frontline staff immediately acknowledged and let us know that the wait for a table shouldn’t be more than five or ten at the most. Why is this important enough to mention? Simple really: not only is it just damn good service but rather than see a group of four people walk out the door because they can’t find a space deciding to go somewhere else, they make a point of keeping you with a promise of Deluxe coffee and the option of having a peek at their ‘mangia’ table (a ‘harvest table’ in Woolies speak) with the days specials of fresh, wholesome salads and other goodies enticingly displayed.
True to their word, and even before our coffees arrived, we were shown a table in the corner along with menus, a carafe of ice-cold water and a promise to return with our missing brews. Though lunchtime, it was unusual to see that everyone was eating rather than just sipping on gluten-free water and nibbling on micro greens tossed with a sprinkle of some organic protein or other. I’m talking about feeding a family of four sized pizzas, towering burgers, steaming bowls of pasta and sandwiches crammed with fillings that oozed from the side as people took a bite of them.
Okay, admittedly I may have overdone it with a verbose use of adjectives but upper cases and italics just seem a little too dramatic when trying to explain my glutinous gaze around the tables around us.
The menu though concise is jam packed with options that each reminds you of favourite childhood memories in and around the Campanian or Puglian countrysides on holiday. You can see that each dish listed wasn’t just added but rather something that has been thought through (and suspect it was mastered by Nona Loreggian decades before). I settled on a bacon butty while my companions each chose the open avo with salmon toasted sarmies. Needless to say, the egg yolk ran over my hands and face but it was pure messy food heaven. I also managed to mop the plate with the brioche bun afterwards making sure that nothing was wasted.
“I envision Giulio’s to be more than just a corner café – it’s a place of comfort. Whether you’re popping in for a quick coffee on your way to the office or looking for a cozy spot to get some work done, our door is always open” is Giulio’s founding principle, and if my experience is anything to go by, we can expect many more years of pleasant delights coming from his kitchen to our tables.
You can find Giulio’s Café at 16 Loop Street corner Riebeek Street or follow them on IG: @giulios_cafe for more information.