A year ago — give or take — I was wasting a lunch break stalking different figures on the Joburg food scene on Instagram. Little did I know that I was about to stumble on something big. On 13 November 2017, Gary Kyriacou, the business partner of Marble in Rosebank, posted a selfie with David Higgs, the brains behind Marble, wearing hard hats with the caption "And it all begins again". This set off a frantic series of events that eventually lead to someone spilling the beans: Gary and David were going to open a second restaurant. One month and one day later, Gary posted a teaser video revealing the name of the eatery — Saint — and that it would open in 2018.
Skip 10 months ahead and I found myself standing in one of the biggest restaurant and bar combos I've visited in SA. At 1 000m², Saint can seat 230 people, has a large DJ booth, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Maude Street. Saint is based on the concept of Pazzo Italiano – loosely, the crazy Italian. It has quickly become the go-to pizza and champagne destination for Sandton’s trendy, up-and-coming business crowd.
Higgs and Kyriacou gained the original inspiration for Saint during their visit to New York in early 2016, as part of their planning and research for Marble. For David and Gary, the restaurant they went to in Manhattan had an unbelievable atmosphere. And, when clothing designer Alexander Wang walked in with a troop of models and started ordering pizza and champagne, they knew this was a combination they wanted to bring home with them.
After opening Marble, the team realised that Sandton held captive a great niche market for the idea. Beyond the food – because everyone eats and loves pizza – it was the right place for the vibe. In a city with energy, integration and positivity, Saint provides a much-needed, out-of-work experience.
In preparation for the opening of Saint, head chef Matt van Niekerk and chef de partie Tyler Clayton visited Milan, Italy, and worked alongside pizza masters Gino Sorbillo and Gennaro Rapido of Lievito Madre Sorbillo in Duomo Milan to learn the art of authentic Neopolitan pizza-making. Lievito Madre Sorbillo is a family-run restaurant, like many other authentic eateries in the city, and started rolling-out dough back in 1935, so pizza-making is a career. For Matt and Tyler, arriving at Gennaro’s Milan restaurant on a Monday morning was a welcome reward after a long journey from South Africa.
Saint’s pizza embodies this authenticity – imported flour, handmade local buffalo mozzarella and the freshest ingredients. Each pizza features a maximum of three to four toppings – unlike other local offerings. High standards and consistency are key – if a pizza isn’t the right size, right shape, has too much sauce or there isn’t a simplicity and balance of flavour, it doesn’t make the serve.
Toppings include fresh mozzarella; sirloin, caramelised onion and pumpkin seed pesto; cured meats with fresh tomato and taleggio cheese; and The Big Nacho with spicy jerked chicken, avocado, sour cream and cumin. There are also a few pizza Bianca (without tomato) options like the spinach, crème fraîche, Parmesan and fried egg; mushroom truffle, preserved lemon, Gorgonzola and asparagus; and salami, black olive, white anchovy, basil and mozzarella.
Saint gives people food they recognise and enjoy that's simple and beautiful, presented at an elevated level in a sophisticated setting. The two imported and custom-made Stefano Ferrara pizza ovens are the gold-mosaic centrepieces of the expansive kitchen. Standing amidst some of the finest equipment, chef skills and ingredients, they certainly fire-up Sandton’s culinary scene.
Dishes other than pizza include rigatoni pasta with either lamb or short rib; saffron risotto with osso bucco and gremolata; lamb shank and polenta; octopus casserole with chorizo, bean, kale and garlic; and wood-fired beets with mustard greens and beetroot pesto. For dessert, there is affogato, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, gelato and biscotti, and milkshakes.
In closing, Saint pays homage to Italian food while drenched with attention to detail. Although I wouldn't come to this eatery weekly, it's an excellent choice for special occasions and a Joburg bucket-list restaurant. Experience it for yourself at the base of the MARC building in Sandton.
For more on Saint, click here.
Address: 129 Rivonia Rd, Sandown, Sandton