Fresh Italian flavours at Nolio

Port Elizabeth restaurateurs Jonathan Gunston and Marlene Tredoux have opened Nolio and are also the driven pair behind Two Olives in Stanley Street
Port Elizabeth restaurateurs Jonathan Gunston and Marlene Tredoux have opened Nolio and are also the driven pair behind Two Olives in Stanley Street
Image: Eugene Coetzee

The Bay’s epicurean epicentre of Stanley Street and surrounds boasts a dizzying selection of eateries. You’ll find Asian, Greek, Mediterranean, Mexican and more and, until the recent closure of Todos Locos around the corner in Bain Street, even authentic Spanish tapas were on tap.

However, for an impossibly long time cucina Italiana was the very obvious omission. Until Nolio, that is. This new baby of well-known Bay restaurateurs Jonathan Gunston and Marlene Tredoux, of Two Olives renown, has attracted a steady clientele and consistently good reviews since opening in the spot previously occupied by Le Med in November last year.

Besides now owning two popular establishments on “The Strip”, the hard-working duo – partners in love and in business – are also expecting an actual bambino very soon.
But until then it’s all hands on deck at their two restaurants, each of which has settled into its own successful rhythm and formula. You won’t find pizzas and pastas at Two Olives, for instance, so Nolio is the place to go if you’re in the area and craving Italian.

Jonathan says he and Marlene often cook Italian food at home and spent much time researching and fine-tuning their menu. As for the restaurant’s catchy name, Jonathan says Nolio is meant to suggest “creativity in food, the pursuit of dreams and a whole bunch of other things”.

I just think it’s cute.

Like most restaurants on Stanley Street Nolio doesn’t take bookings, so it’s best to get there early and make a beeline for a table.

If you end up on the waiting list you could always pop next door to Soho to enjoy a cocktail, as my husband Salvelio and I did, while waiting for a table to open up.

We were in luck: Our martinis weren’t even made yet by the time we got a chilled spot outside and the friendly waiter at Soho was happy to ferry the drinks across for us.

It was a balmy week night and of course summer had passed, but you’d never have known it – and a bottle of zesty Lamberti pino grigio (R135) definitely added to the holiday vibe.

After nibbling on the complimentary bread sticks baked on the premises, Salvelio tucked into his very satisfying arrancini starter (deep-fried rice balls stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and served with spicy arrabbiata sauce, R56).

Star of the night

My starter of lamb tagliata was the star of the night. Though pricey at R85, the tender seared lamb rump with rocket, parmesan and salsa verde was such a palatal triumph that I would order it again and again.

For mains we went for pasta: linguine a la vongole (R115) for me and spaghetti gamberi (R125) for him, vongole meaning clams and gamberi prawns. Both dishes are quintessentially Italian and Nolio did a fine job of capturing the deceptively simple flavours and making them sing. Combine good-quality seafood, fresh tomato, olive oil, garlic, herbs and a few other bits in just the right way and, bravo, a meal fit for a king.

My only slightest of regrets is that the two mains, though thoroughly enjoyable, were quite similar in flavour profile, though Salvelio’s prawn dish had decidedly more fire-power. Considering my habit of liberally helping myself off his plate I should probably have ordered something quite different.

I’ve heard the wood-fired pizzas are really good so perhaps that’s an idea for next time. Because, yes, there most certainly will be a next time.

Pud-wise it had to be tiramisu (R55) and Nolio’s did not disappoint.

Nolio is at Shop 6 in the Stanley on Bain building. Hours are Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11.30am to 11pm, and they are open until 4.30pm on Sundays.