Il Leone review

I’d heard from a few people that Il Leone was absolutely fabulous. I got the impression in my mind of casual, loud Italian restaurant with some tasty Italian food. The guests made gregarious by excessive consumption of reasonably priced red wine. Boy do I miss the old Strega.

So, it turned out to be very different from my mental image. The place is actually quite smart. They have a small lounge next to the bar on the one side. Very comfortable (and expensive) leather couches keep the big screen TV company. The restaurant side has about 10(?) tables which were filled with well-behaved people. I think the reason being that the red wine is not cheap at all. The decor is quite smart and modern with effective lighting which creates a pleasant, soft mood.

There were 6 of us and none of us had any starters. 3 of us had the seared tuna (R95) for main (very Italian), served with mash and steamed veggies. It was good but not much different from the seared tuna I would get at a lot of restaurants in Cape Town. One person had a pasta (R40), he reckoned that while there was nothing wrong with it, it didn’t come close to a pasta at Andiamo. One person had the Nowegian Salmon (R90) and the other person had the veal (R85), neither had any complaints. For dessert we shared the crepes filled with Nutella (R40), very nice.

The service was good, the waiter knew what he was doing. Only complaint was that he was quite scarce. It detracts from the meal when one has to spend an inordinate amount of time wondering when the waiter is going to make an appearance. The wine list is pricey. I couldn’t find much under R100. We ended up drinking wine which cost R145 per bottle which seemed to be the best value, but 3 bottles later it really inflated the bill.

We had 2 bottles of water and it annoyed me a little that without consultation they bring Italian water. This bugs me for 2 reasons, 1) it’s R25 a bottle and 2) it has a massive amount of air miles attached to it. Ethical consumers will appreciate being offered water which hasn’t been flown around the world. If they want to make your experience more Italian, they must just relabel local water with an Italian sounding/looking label. Seeing as they are part of the Mastrantonio chain, that shouldn’t be difficult.

The bill was over R200 a head, which is pretty hectic. At those prices I’d rather be eating at the Showroom or Jardine (admittedly the wine did inflate the bill). I think Il Leone is nice but I don’t think it’s fantastic nor is it great value. If I want Italian, I will still go to Andiamo.

22 Cobern Street (Cnr of Prestwich)
Green Point
Tel: 021 421 0071

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36 Responses

  1. Bazil says:

    In response to your review of IL Leone – I had dinner there recently and must say that it was probably one of the best meals I have had in Cape Town in a long time. While Andiamo may offer great “value” I find their food inedible and the furthest thing from real Italian food one could have the misfortune of finding. Adiamo no doubt serves some of the worst food in Cape Town – not that the cape quarter has much better to offer.

    All in all I would say that one cannot compate Il Leone to Andiamo – IL Leone is in a class all of it own – I urge any one who is looking for amazing authentic and honest Italian cooking to make a resevation at once : 021 – 421 0071 – Prestwich St, Green point.

    Try : Homemade Gnocchi with Bolognaise, Panzottti with artichokes and ricotta, Porcini fried with garlic, olive oil, parsley, garlic and white wine.

  2. Pips says:

    Try not to make it too obvious that you are punting your own restaurant – we want good service and good food – perhaps put more effort into that instead of bad mouthing the opposition on the internet 🙂

  3. Bazil says:

    Trust me I do not own Il Leone or wish to own any restaurant – I simply had a fantastic meal at Il leone – honestly one of the best meals I have had in Cape Town in ages – I have stopped eating at Andiamo as I honestly find their food quite bad – I have quite high expectations of food when I go out and am not easily impressed.

    ONCE AGAIN TO ANYONE OUT THERE : ENJOY A MEAL AT IL LEONE SOON AND HAVE YOUR SOCKS KNOCKED OFF !! IF ANDIAMO KNOCKS YOUR SOCKS OFF THEN SO BE IT !!

  4. Erik says:

    I’ve recently heard from a colleague that they have had the worst experience ever at Il Leoni…….

    a little extract “……..Steve did send his food back. Everyone else ate grudgingly. At one time one of the managers came up and asked how our meal was. Steve answered that the food was extremely poor. She looked at him and walked away.

    In sharp contrast, our waitress was marvellous throughout the meal. She apologised. Asked what she could do to solve the problem. And didn’t charge us for the coffee. We tipped her well. We then asked to speak to the manager.

    An owner/manager appeared. When the guys told him that their food had been awful, he said: “Thank you very much” and tried to walk off! I called him back and carefully explained about the garlic, dry fish and cold potatoes. He then turned back to my friends and said: “This is how you should talk, not like you started earlier.” At this point, one of our friends left the table. The owner/manager went on to say that he had tasted the returned fish and didn’t see the problem. And that no-one else in the restaurant had complained. At no point did he apologise. “

  5. Dax says:

    Thanks for this comment Erik, let’s hope Bazil reads it.

    Any restaurant can have a bad day, so complaints about food are not the end of the world. But there is never any excuse for a bad attitude, especially from management.

    The way a complaint is dealt with will dictate whether that customer returns to the restaurant or doesn’t return and tells their friends not to as well.

  6. Bazil says:

    hello dax – yes i have read Eriks comments – I am planning to go back to Il Leone quite soon and will most def keep you updated on my experience – further news to anyone out there I had a really bad food exp in JHB recently at the very new and much talked about yum nostaligia in rivonia – AWFULL food !! See my review on http://www.eatout.co.za.

    Will keep you posted on my next visit to Il Leone !!!

    Bazil

  7. Mangrove says:

    I had a really good meal there but found the portion very small. Could have eaten double. I can’t remember what it was though… everyone else enjoyed their meal. Nice atmosphere.

  8. Bazil says:

    Hello – I finally made it back to Il Leone again last week – we had a lovely meal – the linguini with italian sausage is fantastic – and the crepes with nutella are also fab as is the flash fried calamari – it’s a lovely place. I spent 10 days on a culinary tour of Italy in October and we ate at some of the best restarants Italy has to offer – inluding 2 Michelan star establishments which was just amazing – while Il leone is no Michelan contender – they do serve pukka Italian pasta made with quality ingriedients. I tried Mario’s in Greenpoint for the first time recently and the food was appaling – a real shocker !!

  9. Dax says:

    Bazil, seeing as you are such an aficionado of Italian food, what do you think of Zucca in Kloof St? Several people have recommended it to me but I haven’t had an opportunity to try it yet.

  10. Bazil says:

    Dax, I am by no means an aficionado on Italian food – I do know and understand good food though. Have never been to Zucca – will have to wait for your review.

  11. Dani says:

    I am terribly amused by your correspondence! Have to say I ate at Il Leone on Tuesday night and it was quite simply superb. The food was great, as was the service. Can’t comment on the wine list as didn’t go there, and if I had to find one critisism it would be the occasional disappearance of the waitress. Other than that, 10 of of 10.

  12. Sue says:

    I had the privilage of being invited to Il Leone about two months ago as a guest of a family member down from Gauteng. We were a table of three. My visitors were bowled over by the whole ambiance of the restaurant, as well as the service and superb food. It was fabulous!! I am a guest house relief manager and work in various guest houses. I will not hesitate to recommend the restaurant to my guests.

  13. MP says:

    Had romantic dinner for two at Il Leone last night after a friend recommended it and was very impressed both by the service and the quality of the food. Everything on the menu sounds delicious so choosing was quite a challenge (but I suppose a good reason to return). The tuna carpaccio was given added piquancy by crushed capers and rocket and my sole was possibly the best I have ever had. Decor is sophisticated yet relaxed with wooden floors and widely-spaced tables. Not cheap, I will say (R200 pp), but we had a very nice bottle of red and a starter as well as two mains.

  14. Andrew says:

    1. Since you obviously had so much disdain for the food, I presume you left any contact details out on purpose? I’m not having to dig the Yellow Pages??!! Would have been nice to include it somewhere in your write-up.

    2. Love your comment on the water and those carbon emissions used needlessly in getting it to us here (when we have a large selection locally produced). A shame more don’t make a mention of this type of thing: critical decisions we as consumers have the power to make (and need to).

    3. For a decent meal nowadays in Cape Town once can expect to pay at least R200 per head. Anything less is actually surprising. 2 of us: starter / wine / main course should come to around R450.00 – R500.00. Still cheaper (and in a different league) to other more upmarket restaurants where R650.00 – R700.00 is more likely to be encountered.

    4. Your review might be horrid, but we’ll give it a try anway. Thanks. 🙂

  15. Dax says:

    Hi Andrew

    I wrote this review quite a while ago, before I got into the habit of adding the contact details. I have now added them.

    At the end of your comment you say my review is horrid, but I’ve just reread it and I don’t think it was that bad. I mentioned quite a few positive points. I just thought it was pricey and the waiter was scarce, apart from that quite nice.

    I wish I had the time and money to review all restaurants more than once as one can have different experiences on different occasions. Unfortunately, due to limited time and finances and an over abundance of restaurants I find myself only returning to those that impress me on the first visit. I imagine that most people operate the same way.

    There have been quite a few positive comments made about this restaurant so perhaps it deserves another visit. If I were you, I would give it a try.

    Please share your impressions with us when you have been.

  16. Craig says:

    Il Leone is truely amazing. The food, service and ambiance outstanding. All the pasta is made on site and is truely authentic. All I will say is that it is virtually impossible to find a better Italian in Cape Town. Andiamo’s doesn’t even come close. End of story.

  17. Paul says:

    I’ve just come back to a cold London after two great weeks in Cape Town. I had eaten at Il Leone back in June ’08 and was very impressed. So on this visit with guests who are the critics from hell with me (you know what the Brits are like) I booked dinner at Il Leone on the first evening. My guests could not have been more delighted. We returned again for lunch on New Year’s Eve and they wanted that to be their last eating place bfore leaving Cape Town. Three times in two weeks. Daniel, the chef, came to talk to us on the day the restuarant was quiet. What a lovely unassuming guy clearly working very hard.

    I absolutely agree with the comment about water and I wish I had commented on it. In fact in Cape Town, there’s nothing wring with tap water. Or is there?

    A tip on eating at Andiamo’s – eat their salads or their Pizzas. They have no idea howe to make anything else taste good!

    My big disappointment on this visit was Savoy Cabbage. It’s a great space but the food was tasteless. Anyone else have that experience?

  18. Bazil says:

    Hi Paul – also ate at Savoy Cabbage not too long ago – the food isn’t what it once was – a real shame.

  19. James Ed says:

    I’ve been eating at the “brother” restaurant Mastrantonio in Joburg quite a bit lately and it is fantastic. The Sagne a Pezze with ragu is simply outstanding. If they have this at Il Leone I would highly recommend it. I have had a selection of the antipasto’s there and they are all superb. I’m surprised that Il Leone is not much better. I will definitely try it when next in CT.

  20. mo says:

    Had dinner there last month. Very so – so. Not bad, but not great either. Ambiance is cold for me. Italian is what you see when Jamie Oliver went to Italy on his BBC show. Mamas cooking the real thing, loud and viby with men sitting in the corner sipping on red wine talking about only they will know. OK, this is Cape Town and not Italy, but still no feel to the place.

  21. Grant says:

    My wife and I ate at Il Leone last night. WOW !!! This ranks amongst the best meals i have eaten out recently.
    The service was spot-on, the staff was friendly and the food was exceptional.
    My wife has a risotto with fresh porcini mushrooms (not cheap, but worth every cent) and I had a special on offer which was spaghetti with seared tuna, rosa tomato, chilli, capers, olive oil, black pepper and garlic. I almost licked the plate after finishing this generous portion.
    To anybody who doubts the credentials…try it for yourself !!

  22. Des says:

    Il Leone the best Italian in Cape Town by miles.
    The seared tuna is seared tuna. When you go Italian go Italian!!
    Your Andiamo ????? Not Italian!!! They don’t know the difference between Parma,Crudo or Serano even!!!!

  23. Julie says:

    Didnt go to the restaurant, but I wanted to park outside (on the other side of the road) on Saturday night, as we were going to a nearby restaurant and parking was scarce. The car-guard told me that the parking is reserved for patrons to Il Leone only and no one else. He was quite rude, calling me stupid and telling me I dont know the rules of the road (which rule reserves public parking for a specific restaurant?) Eventually moved on to find other parking as I didnt trust leaving my car with him, but it has certainly put me off ever going that restaurant – he has clearly been told by the owners only to allow patrons to park there.

    • Dax says:

      That is so not cool. I share your anger and plan to park there next time I eat out anywhere in town. I don’t care how far I have to walk.

  24. Carla says:

    I am disappointed. Caprese salad had such small pieces of mozarella in it i hardly tasted it, and my kingklip as main was overcooked and a very small portion. Again, unfortunately i think another completely overpriced restaurant. I paid R250 for this and one glass of tonic water only. (R30 tip). Don’t think i will go back.

  25. Dax says:

    I ate lunch at Il Leone today, my first visit since I tried it more than three years ago.

    It was definitely better than my first visit. The manager was very welcoming and helpful. While I waited at the bar, I watched him actively monitoring the tables which impressed me.

    The food was good, but it really is quite pricey. Two of us shared a starter salad and a dessert and had a pasta each with one glass of wine each. with a tip it came to R250 each. In fairness we did order seafood pastas which carry a premium.

    We started with a salad from their specials, a caprese (with cows milk mozzarella) with rocket and avo added (R72). I had the spaghetti vongole (clams) for R100 which was nice, but I must admit I didn’t enjoy having to fish out the clam shells. My partner had the prawn pasta with fresh basil and tomatoes (R120), that was really nice. We shared the nutella crepes (2 for R50).

    de Wetshof unwooded chardonnay set us back R39 per glass.

    It was a pleasant experience. The service was good and we enjoyed dining on the veranda, but at those prices it will have to be a special occasion option.

    I popped upstairs and I see they have a private dining section which can take up to 30 people, or you can book the whole upstairs for a function.

  26. James Ed says:

    I think we have to get used to these prices. In Jhb it is common to pay R300-R500 per head and the restaurants are full. Crazy.

  27. Carla says:

    I have no problem paying the going rates for restaurant meals, but then i expect at least a substantial portion size and good quality…

  28. Massimo says:

    Caro Daz, fishing the clam out of the shell is the only way to eat Spaghetti alle Vongole! It’s the best way to get all the taste and to be sure they are made with fresh vongole and not out of a tin.
    Ciao, Massimo

  29. Michele Wilson says:

    I have been on a mission through out the restaurants of Cape Town to find the best gnocchi. So far Il Leone beats them all hands down, with Mario’s coming in a CLOSE second. Both true Italian restaurants. The food at Il Leone is GLORIOUS and authentic. Of course this is a personal opinion, and pleases MY tastebuds.
    I have not been so fortunate at Andiamo’s and suggest if you do go there to dine stick to a salad.
    Nuff said.

  30. Carla says:

    Hi everybody. Can anybody please recommend a restaurant in CT which makes truly excellent pasta dishes? (Besides Il Leone). Thank you!

    • Dax says:

      Meloncino in the Waterfront, Il Cappero in Barack Street, Magica Roma in Pinelands.

      What about Posticino in Seapoint and Nonna Lina in town?

  31. Carla says:

    Thank you Dax! We haven’t tried the first two restaurants you mentioned, so we are going to try out Meloncino. Will let you know what we think..

  32. Leon says:

    It is obvious to me that you only eat at a wimpy
    For R200 rand per head is cheap in today’s world at this type of a restaurant …. so stick to your wimpy food ???