Chef James Diack does it again with Il Contadino in Joburg’s Parktown North
I don’t know if you’ve ever stepped into a space, or existed in a moment, that felt completely new but very familiar. I get that type of feeling from Blues music especially from the likes of Big Mama Thornton, Etta Jones and Memphis Minnie. Il Contadino held that same unfamiliar familiarity for me.
The newbie, based at the corner of 4th Avenue and 7th Avenue in Parkview, is Chef Diack’s latest brain child with Italian, French and Spanish inspired dishes. With the doors having just opened last week when I first visited the eatery I didn’t know what to expect because with each restaurant Diack and his team have successfully reinvented themselves while still maintaining a portion of familiarity for those who can’t help but come back for more.
It was in the hanging lights, the copper pipes that gave the ceiling character, the small pot plants of herbs and the big couch that stretches across the wall – those are all things that I’ve spotted in Chef Diack’s other restaurants. Those were the things that made it feel like a home away from home but make no mistake, other than the gratifying dishes it stands on its own. And, unlike the other restaurants in the chain, this one is more family orientated and they’ll be serving breakfast!
Il Contadino is a beautiful display of Diack and his team’s love for food with what tasted like a story on every plate to me. A lot of what I ate sent me down a nostalgic road with one of my childhood favourites, pizza.
'The Wild Boar Ragout' with acorn-fed wild boar and fresh Mozzarella, 'The Tuscan' which has lamb sausage, fennel, mint and fresh Mozzarella as well as 'The Focaccia' with grapes, dolce late, red onions and rosemary have definitely changed my take on pizza forever.
Each dish was as aesthetically pleasing as it was bursting with flavour and made with the grace of love and time. So, you absolutely must look out for the oven roasted short rib accompanied by a polenta mash, free-range Osso Bucco filled ravioli in a tomato jus topped with crumbled Parmesan as well as the tomato-infused gnocchi served with basil pesto, confit tomato and torn buffalo Mozzarella. And, by look out for it I mean try soon!
Il Contadino is a family restaurant in every sense of the word. 80% of what’s served at the restaurant is grown at Brightside Farm in Magaliesburg, Diack’s family farm which is the home where he grew up. There’s also a bakery in-house and they make their own pasta and gelato. All of which speaks volumes about the freshness of the food. Tell me that that’s not homey.
So, if you’re looking for a taste of something familiar marinated in novelty, cooked with passion and garnished with respect for well-prepared food from the hands of those who have a deep love for it then don’t say that you weren’t told about Il Contadino. For me, Il Contadino is all things new but still very familiar.