Kensington's Authentic Italian Delicatessen

Kensington's Authentic Italian Delicatessen

You wanna Italiano genuino?

Whenit comes to food, the truest indication of authenticity is to eat - orin this case shop - where the locals do, and true to form, the Italian Deli in Kensington is a gem of genuineness.  

The establishment has been running for the last 21 years by the genial Steffenini family from Milano, and is an Aladdin's cave of imported Italian delicacies.  Amongst the ubiquitous tinned tomatoes, olive oils, dusted salamis and pretty Pannetone cakes, you'll find mouth-watering items, fit for a signora. The best way to get your rands worth, is to chat to the affable Steffenini's - Gianni, Rosanna and Luigi - to get their impeccable recommendations. Just by engaging with this lively Italian family, I've managed to hone my sizeable list of favourites. Here's a small sample:

I never leave the deli without indulging my caffeine habit, and their personal blend - self-christened Formula One - is one of the finest around. Nothing compares in terms of taste, aroma or quality. The Formula One blend retails for around R42 per 250 grams - and they crush and bag the pungent beans in front of you.  

Good 'ol reliable pasta is another favourite of mine, and I use the imported De Cecco range, which retails around R18 for penne or spaghetti. They also stock the more interesting-shaped pastas, like cannelloni, and others, contorted into all kinds of exotic shapes and sizes. The range is extensive, but fear not, Gianni will good-naturedly guide you through the pasta labyrinth.

But what good is pasta without a generous smattering of shaved parmesan? The Steffenini's import a hefty 40 kg at a time - gargantuan wheels of Grana Padano and Reggiano adorn the counter tops.  Gianni's tip? Never buy parmesan if it doesn't have a thick yellowing crust. White crust = no good. He also claims that the more mature this cheese is, the better it tastes. You can pick up their parmesan for about R40 a kilo, and they'll wrap your wedge in the slickest of wax paper, making you feel uber-continental when you waltz out with your neat little packages tucked snugly under your arm!

The Steffenini's have perfected a dish commonly known in Italy as Carpaccio Anemone.  Simply put, it's assembled as a layered dish, rolled up, garnished, and then thinly sliced to resemble an Anemone - a blossom, indigenous to Italy. The base is fillet of Carpaccio, followed by a hairsbreadth slice of Parma Ham. Soft and buttery, the Asiago cheese trails, topped by liberal dollops of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, and creamy shaved parmesan!  This exquisite creation is then rolled up - to resemble a Swiss roll - and at long last, finely sliced. There are no words worth mustering to describe how utterly delightful this delicate dish is. These small slices of heaven will set you back around R250 per kilo - and phone ahead to order.  

Gianni vigorously recommends the Condi olive oil, which retails for around R70 per litre.  It's a light and pungent oil that's easily digestible.

Apart from the aforementioned delights, you will also find sundried pesto, a selection of imported chocolates, artichoke hearts, porcini mushrooms, and plump Calamata olives in abundance.  For the adventurous, you might like to indulge in a delicacy native to Italy and revered by its nation: rabbit with polenta - their fridges are stocked with the little critters, straight from their stockists - the Italian farm.

And if you're really looking to impress your dinner guests, you can always take home Mama Rosanna's pre-prepared beef lasagne or vegetable cannelloni - homemade, the real Italian way. That'll cost you round about R65 per kilo. Round that off with a decadent tiramisu for R68 a tray (Mama claims that every region in Italy has its own recipe) and you'll be dubbed the domestic goddess for weeks afterwards - ciao Nigella, buongiorno Italian Deli shopper...

The Italian Delicatessen is located on 184 Cumberland Road, Kensington, Johannesburg.  Tel: (011) 616-3339.  Open for business Monday to Friday 08h00-17h30, except Wednesdays when they close at 13h00.  Saturdays close at 17h00, and Sundays are a day of rest.

by Laura Banks
When it comes to food, the truest indication of authenticity is to eat where the locals do and, true to form, the Italian Delicatessen is a gem of genuineness.