Well, Blairgowrie has recently(ish) been made the new home of Amarcord Osteria and, what is Illovo’s massive loss is Blairgowrie’s awesome gain. Headed by super-nonna-chef, Luciana Righi, the new Amarcord is one of Joburg’s best-kept secrets. The name Amarcord comes from “a classic Italian masterpiece directed by Federico Fellini, AMARCORD is a heartwarming story of coming home to fond memories, bygone times, family lunches and good food according to their website.
Luciana was the original it-girl and chef of Assaggi, the well-known gangster-politician restaurant in the Post Office Centre in Illovo.(I say gangster-politician as I’ve seen both Mikey Schultz and Trevor Manual dining there at the same time.) After a few years at the helm of a very successful operation, she then packed her bags to start her own venture and moved across the road to the Thrupps Centre where she opened the original Amarcord. The old restaurant felt very formal and cavernous, so Luciana and her “son” Mario Guerini went looking for more intimate venues.
They found their spot, where the old Jay’s Diner used to be, right next to LISOF and the Blairgowrie Shopping Centre on 53 Conrad Drive. And they have not looked back since. The menu has remained largely the same as before and offers locals, traditional, homemade northern Italian delights such as lasagna (a firm favourite), zucchini fritti (their version of chips) and a delicious veal cottolettas (steaks)… to name a few.
A must-try is the dolce della nonna dessert – the layers of sabayon, cream, amaretti biscuits, pecan nuts, dark chocolate and Marsala wine makes for one of the most delicious things I have ever had the privilege to taste.
Overall, I believe that the food is sublime and the service is attentive and sincere. Luciana and Mario are always at the shop and can often be spied outside, having a smoke and a fat chat in Italian while they plan their days and menus. I’ve often visited where Luciana has greeted me like an old family member and felt a bit like a mob boss who has arrived at his favourite Italian “joint”. They’re so authentic that I often find myself putting on a bit of an accent to join in. Sadly, I will never be Italian, even if I learn to speak it. And THAT is the magic of Amarcord; it feels like a little slice of Italy in your backyard.
Luciana and Mario’s magic is impossible to replicate and makes for a great meal for friends and la famiglia. Authentic and delicious, just like Italy.
By Veronica Botes