“Most of my childhood was spent in the kitchen, watching my mom and nonna use their love of food and cooking 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.”
With this upbringing it’s small wonder Giulio Loreggian, owner /chef of the Giulio’s Café, turned his back on finance studies and headed back to his roots in the kitchen. After doing some training in Cape Town, he packed his bags for London – and ended up working in the kitchens of internationally renowned chef, Jamie Oliver, before later heading home to open Giulio’s Café in 2015.
Located on the corner of Loop and Riebeek streets in central Cape Town, Giulio’s Café is a beautiful calming escape from the bustling city scenes on its doorstep. Go there for the legendary iced coffee, try one of the breakfasts with an Italian twist, choose fresh salads from the Mangia table or tuck into the Mediterranean-Italian love affair that is the open lamb wrap. Behind it all is family – a big Italian one.
“One of the things I’ll never forget was my dad making us eggy-on-bread. He made a concoction of boiled eggs scrambled with tomato sauce, mayonnaise and salt and pepper on soldiers. He fed us choo-choo trains,” says Giulio who grew up in Johnannesburg. “But the napolitana and bolognaise pastas Mom taught me were the first real Italian dishes I made. She always said, ‘if you can make these, you can learn to make anything’.
“What inspired me about working with him [Jamie Oliver] was the idea that everything must be fresh, healthy and locally sourced.” And this is reflected in the café’s Mangia table, which almost groans under the weight of the freshest, vibrant salads Giulio whips up every day.
“Everyone says this has been my dream,” says Giulio, “but it stemmed from my mom’s dream. I hope that one day I can hand this over to her when we start a few more. [Until then] I’ve got to keep her busy otherwise she drives me crazy.”
At the moment, mama Franca only comes into the café for a few days to two weeks every month. “The best part is how she connects with our clients. To her, everyone is family. When we were growing up, everyone was welcome at our house, at our table. It’s amazing the way my regulars miss her when she’s away and get excited when she comes back. Sometimes I’ve thought I should change the name to Franca’s!”
This isn’t the only way family has influenced the café – the menu as a whole is based on what Giulio’s family love to eat every day. He says that if he can please these people and they eat a lot, he knows he’s pleasing a lot of people. Mother and son also want to preserve and pass on some of their family traditions. “I want to make a series of real Italian cakes,” says Franca. “You know, I don’t want us to lose our culture. We should pass on our recipes from generation to generation.”
“She just wants to make everyone fat!” chimes in Giulio with a grin. “Actually, at the end of the day, we just want everyone to leave here happy and satisfied.”