It’s been less than a year since Italian compatriots Matteo Santini & Maurizio Carlo took over The Woodlands Eatery, one of a string of little restaurants along Vredehoek’s Deer Park Drive. According to author Don Pinnock, a decades-long Vredehoek local, its previous incarnation was uninspiring. But, thanks to the recent southern Italian takeover-makeover, it’s become his favourite place to eat.
We popped in for coriander chicken pizzas on a rainy weekday afternoon. I drank a draught of craft beer and admired the quirky decor and the definite sense of warmth and welcome. “It’s lucky it’s lunchtime,” said Don. “This place is always packed for dinner. You can’t get in without a reservation.”
When our pizzas arrived, I could see why. An impossibly thin and crispy base topped with perfectly fresh and succulent tomatoes, chicken, pesto and rocket. Don carefully poured some of their home made chilli oil over his pizza. “This stuff is really hot,” he said, “but it’s so good.”
A smiling, spectacled man came to say Buongiorno to us. He seemed to know Don. “The owners always come and greet you. They recognise you and remember what you like,” Don said.
Browsing the menu made me think that it might be a jolly good idea to eat here often enough to be recognised. I have my eye on some of the other gourmet pizzas – like the Big Gus, with caramelised pork in a red pepper, red onion, soya sauce and honey reduction, topped with mango and coriander.
And their fresh, homemade pastas sound rather divine too. How about fresh tagliatelle with ‘famous slow-cooked lamb sauce’? Or homemade ravioli filled with artichokes and mushrooms and served with a quattro formaggio sauce of gorgonzola, mozarella, parmesan, walnuts and feta? Or perhaps penne with salsiccia and funghi in ‘a gentle creamy sauce’?
Hmm, come to think of it, it’s getting on for lunchtime now. Perhaps I should see if Don’s free for a bite again?
The Woodlands Eatery is at 2 Deerpark Drive, Vredehoek and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00 – 22:00. Call 063 7104742 to make a reservation.