James Diack's new Melville hot spot is about good food, made well

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Grapes, red onion, blue cheese and cracked black pepper on a thin, crispy pizza base. This is my most delicious memory of the opening taster evening at Chef James Diack’s La Stalla.

Italian for “the stable”, the restaurant replaces The Federal in Melville.

The space retains its bare-brick industrial look with copper piping as well as the reclaimed wood-panelled wall, but will be much cosier for winter evenings with a newly installed pizza oven. It will also be a better fit with the student and young professional crowd in the area.

Picture: La Stalla Facebook

The menu has been overhauled to be, according to Diack, a mini version of his extremely successful latest venture in Parktown North, Il Contadino – translated as “the farmer”.

If you haven’t yet tried Il Contadino, do yourself a favour and tuck into their Sunday lunch special, which is wild boar on the spit with roast potatoes. It’s fresh and delicious, with perfect crackling.

La Stalla is supplied with fresh products from his family farm, Brightside in the Magaliesburg, as are Diack’s other two restaurants, Coobs and The National.

For La Stalla’s taster evening there was a selection of Diack’s delicious cold meats - including parma ham and salami - made from his farm-raised pigs.

There were also more-ish arancini balls, with crisp breadcrumbs on the outside and a rich, gooey rice and mozzarella filling on the inside. And bruschetta as it should be: coolly fresh on top and crispy crunch underneath.

The restaurant also serves salads and roast chicken, and ice cream in bowls or cones. I will be going back for these as, alas, I didn’t stay late enough for La Stalla’s dessert on its taster evening.

With bar stools and tables outside, the restaurant also plans to draw the cool Melville crowd with the ubiquitous craft beer, supplied by OC Brewery, as well as a cocktail menu and, of course, wine.

In a time when we all want to know a whole lot more about what we are eating and where it comes from, it is little surprise that Diack, as a guy who knows where just about everything he serves comes from, is doing so well.

Those looking for a cheap and pasty pizza shouldn’t look to this restaurant, but if you are in the market for good food made well, add La Stalla to your list.

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