Italian grocery shop Super Sconto (Super Discount) on Louis Botha has a restaurant, but you would never know it from the front of the building.
You enter through the kinds of doors one used to encounter at banks before the advent of the “secure” revolving door. You are sealed into a mini chamber until a small green light signals that you’re allowed in.
In fact, Standard Bank used to be in the building and now all that’s left is its doorway, and a nondescript grey office kind of ceiling.
You have to order from the counter, and the day’s menu is chalked up on a little board. On the day I visited, you could choose from, among other things, pasta arrabbiata, pasta with pesto, caprese, tuna salad and slices of pizza.
You can also pick out some antipasto: (R30.95) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, strips of red peppers, black and green olives, artichokes in oil, thin strips of fried zucchini and deeply comforting strips of melanzane, deep-fried with garlic and parsley. You can add some cheese, such as provolone, emmenthal or pecorino, and cold meats such as salami, parma ham or mortadella, which will then cost you R47.95.
There is also a special of the day: beef lasagne (R46.95) was on offer that day, but there could be meatballs and spaghetti (R49.95) or chicken schnitzel (R50).
I decided on the arrabbiata (R42). The woman behind the counter said it would be ready “in two minutes” and asked, referring to the pasta, whether I wanted it “short or long”. I decided on the short, which that day was casarecce, a kind of thin, plaited penne.
About a dozen tables were occupied, mainly by elderly men and women, who were tucking into pasta and panini. They don’t have a liquor licence, but there is a bottle store in the building and you can bring a bottle of wine upstairs.
My plate did indeed arrive in a few minutes: perfectly cooked pasta and a piquant tomato sauce, with a hint of chilli. I ordered some more fresh chilli, which arrived chopped in a little bowl with oil. Parmesan was on the table.
The shop, which is downstairs, is full of shelves of Italian goods, including, incongruously for a food store, Italian toiletries. There are canned tomatoes, olive oil, bottles of pickled vegetables and a large selection of exotic pasta shapes, including cavatelli and giant paccheri.
There’s also a fridge against the wall with frozen sauces. A tub of tuba sauce costs about R20. If there is some sauce left over from the lunch service upstairs, it is frozen and put in the fridge.
Like a manager in the restaurant says: “We make it fresh in the morning. When it’s finished, it’s finished.”
Super Sconto, 169 Louis Botha Avenue, 011 728 2669