Ballito, once a small coastal town which predominately was cane fields once upon a time, is now one of the fastest growing towns in KwaZulu Natal. With the growth brings about new opportunities for business and while this town already has some gem of eateries, it's ready to welcome another and we went down to try it out. Lupa Osteria, is no stranger to the Durban restaurant scene, having already established stores in Hillcrest, Westville and Durban North, it was time the Dolphin Coast got a taste of what they're cooking. The name coming from Italian origins with Lupa being the immortal Roman wolf goddess who helped establish the city of Rome and Osteria originally meaning a place that serves wine and simple food, it has now been taken up a notch with a bit more that is catered. The masterminds behind the brand are Chef and Owner Chris Black and Owner/ Entrepreneur Guy Clever, they've built the restaurants name up in a tricky Durban market and has become a popular destination for families and friends to gather around for some good food, as they offer a great variety to suit even the fussiest of eater and have a great range of beverages.
Lupa Ballito opened its doors to the public last Friday and last night I was invited to come dine at the new venue. Located in Ballito Lifestyle center, one of the original go-to malls up the coast has undergone a drastic revamp and a much needed one. The strip mall is now more lifestyle orientated has a great new food market and restaurant layout, Lupa Osteria is located at the key front side location and features an outdoor deck area as well as an outdoor bar area which is all soon to be open. The interior is decorated superbly, with a rustic Italian feel and the pasta making area concealed in glass at the entrance of the shop. The bar is magnificent with green marble tops, and a wide selection of wines, spirits, beers and craft beers.
On entering we were warmly greeted by the host and seated promptly, our waiter was soon at our table telling us their range of drinks, I opted for the house brew on tap, called Wolf Lager, appropriately named for the restaurant, it is brewed by Cape Brewing Company exclusively for Lupa Osteria. This golden lager is crisp, refreshing, easy on the palate and fruity notes, perfect for a summers day and perfect for a meal. Having frequented the other Lupa's before, I wanted to try something different for a starter, something that I haven't already tried so I opted for the Italian Nachos. Now while we're all used to getting crispy tortilla chips drenched in cheese, avo and sour cream, these ones were a bit different. On the plate laid crispy fried ravioli, filled with 3 cheeses with a fiery arrabbiata dipping sauce to accompany it. Normally ravioli is a bit dry but these was the total opposite, the filling was moist and flavorful, the panko coating was crisp to perfection and the frying didn't take away the moisture of the pasta. Overall, it was superb and a great starter to have on your own or to share.
Being an Italian restaurant, I wanted to keep the theme going, deciding whether to go for a pizza or a pasta was my hardest decision but being seated close to the pasta prep area, I couldn't help but want to try out their freshly made pasta. I went for the Fettuccine Con Pollo, which on the menu is described as "Chicken and a mix of mushrooms, light cream, garlic, white wine and toasted pine nuts". I'm a sucker for fries and one of the sides were parmesan fries, even though we were having pasta, I needed to try these! After having a shot of the house made lemoncello, it was the perfect palate cleaner to prepare us for the mains, I was keen to try the house made pasta, I haven't had freshly made pasta before and really was looking forward to it. Lupa say that their pasta is extruded through a die cutter made from bronze creating a rougher texture on the surface, thus allowing the pasta to grip more of the sauce. This was evident from every bit of my main. The pasta was cooked al dente, it was light but captured all the flavours on the plate. The meal was light but filling at the same time, the toasted pine nuts added great texture to the dish, normally I am a fan of added extra chili and garlic to my pasta dishes but for this it was not needed.
Having devoured the entire mains, little space remained for dessert but having a look at the menu, Lupa has a good few options for those with a sweet tooth, one that sticks our for me is the chocolate and caramel fondant which is served with ice-cream but I settled for a scoop of gelato. With five flavours to choose from, I went with the caramel, served in either a bowl or a cone, the scoop is a rather generous portion but with every spoonful leaving your mouth wanting more, it wasn't an effort to finish. The bowl option comes with a sugar cone slice in it, so you sort of get the best of both worlds if you want a cone purely to eat but don't want to deal with the rest of it. The gelato itself is light and creamy, the flavour not too overpowering and definitely a favourite for all ages.
Overall, I can only see Lupa Osteria in Ballito being as successful as the other branches, apart from offering a wide variety of cuisine, the laid back atmosphere, attentive staff and great location will make it a popular spot for most locals and holiday makers. I'll definitely be returning to try out more things on that menu soon and to see the rest of the restaurant take shape when the deck and outdoor bar is open and running.