Do not eat at Nonna Lina

To anyone reading this for the first time: Please note that this post dates back a long time and for some reason is repeatedly proving rather popular. I get a lot of emails and comments about this post, mostly positive and some negative. If you have a valid comment then by all means post it, but if all you’re going to do is tell me that I’m a dick for complaining, then I suggest you don’t waste your time… Also, read my blog, You might find that I’m actually quite a nice guy. The gist of this entire saga is that we had shocking service and Nonna Lina has repeatedly, for almost two years now, refused to simply say sorry, but instead resorted to excuses and insults.

Also, read this semi-update to the story.

(This is a classic Arbitraryuser in the form of an email I sent that dates back to November 17th 2006.)

Today at 1pm a group of us, 11 in total, decided to have lunch at Nonna Lina… This was because they are currently punting their “Special”…

Their offer was one of the meals on their “special menu” and either a soft drink or a beer. The prices, R39 and R45 respectively.

Here is a list of why you should never ever eat at Nonna Lina:

What pizza is meant to look like
Not Nonna Lina Pizza
  • A few of us ordered the “Salami” pizza. It was crusty, oily and they use cheap cheddar cheese. But, the cherry (ha ha) on the top was the absolutely atrocious amount of “salami” on the pizza. We counted; There were 3 slices of the thinnest, smallest, cheapest, nastiest salami, cut into quarters and spread over the pizza. AND THAT WAS ALL. Just nasty cheese and 3 pieces of nasty salami.
  • The service was terrible. EVEN THOUGH WE HAD PRE-ORDERED OUR MEALS the last meal was placed on the table about 20 minutes after the first.
  • One of the meals was wrong, but fearing another wasted half hour someone took one for the team.
  • They sell pasta and pizza… but the dont have Tabasco Sauce… We know they’re trying to be cheap, but come on! Maybe just buy the generic stuff.
  • The waiter struggled to bring the drinks to the table and needed to get reminded constantly. There were only 2 other tables so being “busy” is not an excuse.
  • The beer was warm.
  • Besides being generally bad, the waiter also struggled with english, which will probably explain the next 2 points perfectly.
  • Then came the killer… When the bill arrived it was more than expected… There were two meals we didn’t even have and even though we had only seen their “special menu” apparently one of us ordered a meal off the main menu.
  • Then the real kicker. The Savanah and Castle didn’t count as alcholic beverages… And the Appletizer wasn’t a “Soft Drink” so the unlucky souls (me included) had to fork out R45 for a shitty pizza and an extra R15 for our drinks.
  • No mess up on this scale would be complete without the owner/manager fighting with us about the bill and eventually deciding that it was time to light up a smoke while we were still arguing with him… Eventually we paid up and left, never to return again.

So by my count, Nonna Lina owes me a beer… and you know what, they can shove it… Keep it for a rainy day when all their customers have finally decided that the R8 Boerewors roll outside the Spar on Kloof Street is a better option. More appetising, more tasty and served with a hell of a lot more class than Nonna Lina could dream of — A paper serviette and your choice of 5 sauces in recycled plastic bottles.


ps. Feel free to pass this on to anyone you think might make the mistake of going there.

    Update: Nonna Lina never replied to my emails… I think that speaks volumes.

    Update 2 [29 Jan 2007]: I finally got a response via this site from the guy who owns the place. Amongst a bevy of poorly constructed excuses he called me a racist for bringing up the fact that his waiter didn’t have a very solid grasp of English. Ummm ok. Add that to the list of reasons why not to eat there.


31 thoughts on “Do not eat at Nonna Lina

  1. rofl john, a friend told me nonna lina was good, so i googled it and you came up :D. regardless i’ll give it a whirl and see what the fuss is about. no such thing as bad press.

  2. Jonathan.

    I think either, you have way too much time on your hands or you are a real treat as a human being. Im going with both.

    I have eaten at Nonna Lina many times with friends,family and so on.

    Not once did we ever have a problem….with food or service. Both were brilliant. I have travelled around the world and eaten at the best restuarants, and therefore have room to speak.

    The strange thing in life is that the world is round and you get what you give. So if an arrogant, “full of himself”,”I dont have anything better to do with myself than try and bring down the name of a restuarant regardless of who losses their job or what damage done. Therefore if your ‘apparent’ allogations are correct (which I am sure are not) then, sir, you got exactly what you deserved.

    You are obviously prefect, and have never had a bad day!
    I really do hope that one day when you have a “bad day”, at the office, your boss or co-workers give you a really hard time.

    You should be ashamed of yourself, and honestly, sending your whiney little letter and ordering people to ‘pass it on’, please grow up child.
    Does your letter give you some sort of power trip?

    I find letters, such as your own, degrading and to be frank, pathetic. Sure if you had a bad experience, dont go back, but trying to kill the reputation of someones hard earned income is not only unkind, but it is a form of bullying.

    Try find something better to do with your time, that will help you become a human being.

  3. nonna lina is, and always will be, my favourite italian restuarant in cape town and my regular local spot for dinner or a drink. i have been going there for a number of years now and have only postive things to stay about the food and staff. there isn’t a better dish around than the thin based nonna lina pizza (parma ham and rocket) and the dining experience is made complete from the car guard yassir outside, to the friendly waiters who greet you like long-lost friends upon arrival and try their hand at the odd bit of italian, to the owner antonello whose warm nature, humour and banter is reason enough to go there. i have taken every friend who comes from abroad there as part of their introduction to the cape town lifestlye and they have all loved the place. in fact enough of this writing, i’m going there now!

  4. i’ve eaten at nonna lina plenty of times before and will be for the years to come.the food is fantastic, the service is very personal and great. i don’t know what this person writing this was smoking or who he has a grudge for there, but i will back and endorse nonna lina always.

    incidentally, i have owned a restaurant in the past and i have always commended the nonna lina crew on their great concept and service.

    over the years i have also encountered some anal and prima donna customers, that exaggerate everything for their own gain. sounds like me that this jonothan guy fits the mould perfectly.

    ppl, don’t be discouraged by this prick’s rantings. nonna lina makes probably the best pasta in town, give it a go, you wont be sorry.

    Gary Knoetze

  5. Hi Guys…

    I would love to know what spawned 3 comments in a row for an article that is almost a year old. But I approved them just like I approve all negative feedback because I feel it’s the right thing to do.

    Whether or not Nonna Lina does in fact make the best pizza/pasta in the universe is really not the issue. The issue is whether or not we got decent service and food on this particular occasion, or not.

    And we didn’t. We got terrible service and bad food.

    I find it interesting that someone at Nonna Lina hasn’t just emailed me and said “Hey, we’re sorry you got shitty service”.

    That would actually be enough for me to go back and try their food again, and, if I liked it (and I’m easy to please food wise) I’d write something positive about them.

    But no. Over a year later and still no reply to my email.


  6. Hello there,
    you are wondering why?
    Is just because someone told me that your blog come out as a 6th result on google search page so I decide to send this blog address to my mail list (all regular costumers), as you did with yours,
    the only difference is… no bad comments out of yours so far, so maybe that prove that you are either wrong or you came in a bad day.
    As far as I know I don’t have anything to aplogies out of a missunderstood in a order, you have to apologies to my waiter, because You undertip him, and to all my staff and costumers.
    By the way on the 17 of november Nonna Lina was 4 years old, so maybe we doing something right over there, don’t You think?
    Best regards
    Antonello Scamuzzi

  7. Hello there, you are wondering why?
    It is just because someone told me that your blog come out as a 6th result on google search page so I decide to send this blog address to my mail list (all regular costumers), as you did with yours,
    the only difference is… no bad comments out of yours so far, so maybe that prove that you are either wrong or you came in a bad day.
    As far as I know I reply to u long time ago and I don’t have anything to aplogies out of a missunderstood in a order, you have to apologies to my waiter, because You undertip him, and to all my staff and costumers.
    By the way on the 17 of november Nonna Lina was 4 years old, so maybe we doing something right over there, don’t You think?
    Best regards
    Antonello Scamuzzi

  8. We are all very sorry that you had a bad meal mister! The thing is in the restaurant business things dont always run smoothly…im sorry you caught nonna lina on a bad day! Im very lucky to have only ever eaten very well at antonello’s establishment and am upset that you feel the need to slate the place so badly! Please go back…order one of their fantastic meals…make friends with the owner…hes a real star running a great place! Lets forget this bad energy and year old complaint and focus on more pertinent issues…like new years parties! Keep your chin up Nonna Lina! The rest of Cape Town loves you!xx

  9. Hi Antonello

    Thanks for all the traffic.

    Like I said earlier, I’m not debating whether Nonna Lina generally has good or bad food.

    The issue though is simple: You gave a bunch of people really bad service and they didn’t like the food. One of them complained directly to you about it writing and you never saw fit to reply. That is why I eventually posted it on my blog.

    As for having nothing to apologise for; you are in the service industry. Your restaurant and staff let down a group of people. If I let my customers down I apologise. That’s just good customer relations.

    I am more than happy to accept that perhaps we just caught you guys on a bad day, but then at least have the decency to reply to the email and apologise.

    As for your statement about me under-tipping… that’s a pretty bold statement to make considering there were 11 people and we paid as a group.


  10. Well, but I don’t think is very nice your title, you should, if you were correct call it my experience at Nonna Lina, and not DO NOT EAT AT NONNA LINA, there is always a right way and a wrong way, u using the wrong way.
    And if you are speking for the group, u taking also responsability for the group, isn’t that right?
    And you are debatting about bad food and bad service, read again your review if you not sure.
    And I apologies at the time for what I had to apologies, is not that the costumer is always right, is right when he is, and I admit, and is not right when is not, or all your costumrs get free things when they say they right? And they get things that weren’t included in an approved quotation?
    You tell me, for now I let other people talk.

  11. As an avid foodie, I can honestly say the Nonna Lina has some of the most authentic and consistantly delicious Italian food in Cape Town….
    Having had the opportunity to sample real Italian cuisine; I applaud Antonello for not allowing South African patrons to ruin his carefully crafted dishes with tobasco sauce…

    As a lover of ambience; Nonna Lina is a delightful place to enjoy a bottle of wine, a pizza and a chat with the owner and a good friend; as if you were sitting in his kitchen.

    There is no need to get personal and nasty when a busy restaurant lets you down… just brush it off and take yourself and your offensive attitude elsewhere; there really is no reason to try and spoil it for the rest of us.

    Happy Birthday Nonna Lina!
    Keep on cooking!

  12. Well, we have just had the poorest service that you can imagine at Nonna Lina. In fact the staff were so rude to us, we walked out in the end. When we complained about the poor service we were told that this is Africa! This is very patronising considering we live here ourselves – it is not what we expect in a restaurant. So Antonello needs to go to a good Italian restaurant school to learn how to do proper service because we, as South Africans, expect far more.

  13. Never said that Gavin, sorry you are confused with someone else, by the way was born n Italy and lived there 33 years, maybe you shud visite Italy.

  14. Wow Antonello, you really are cantankerous and defensive!

    You obviously have some loyal fans though.

    I have to say that the one and only time I have ever been to Nonna Lina was for the meal that started this whole post – and I am sorry to have to admit that it was appalling, in every way.

    Oh, and I have visited Italy – although I’m not really sure what that has to do with anything…

  15. Antonello is clearly very arrogant and should maybe go back to Italy. His arrogance comes out in the way he treats his customers with very poor service. Living in Italy doesn’t help him to run a good Italian Restaurant! He needs to study customer relations. To use an English phrase ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do!’ so you need start to realise, Antonello, that you need to respect the country you live in. Treating customers badly will not help you! Rather than arguing with customers you need to learn a little humility and offer apology.

    And yes, I was with Gavin so I clearly heard him say: “This is Africa” as his excuse for poor service.

    Antonello needs to learn how to apologise to customers and offer better service.

  16. the power of the internet just swayed one more customer (and his friends) from trying out Nonna Lina this evening

    the owner should have apologised and offered his customer to return for a free meal, or at least that free beer …

    not only did he lose one customer never to return – but also new prospective customers like me who was swayed not by Jonathan’s experience or comments, but purely by the actions of the owner, despite my italian loyalties and memories of my own nonna

  17. Yippeee, we’re going to Nonna Lina’s tonight, we’re expecting brilliance or disaster, either way we’re bound to have fun.

  18. We had a great evening at Nonna Lina’s, service was excellent and our rowdy table was wonderfully tolerated by staff and patrons alike. Antonello appears to be very loved by his regulars, the tables turned over several times during our meal, with happy customers coming and going all night. Perhaps Antonello realises that an unhappy customer is not worth keeping.

  19. Good to hear you had a great evening at Nonna Lina’s. Do you realise that your attempt at making the restaurant look good lost all credibility when you added that last line “Perhaps Antonello realises that an unhappy customer is not worth keeping.”?

  20. I’m trying Nonna Lina for the first time tomorrow night and plan to have a great evening in icy Cape Town. I don’t usually run on other people’s opinions, so if the restaurant is as bad as a few of the comments above, then so be it. You live and learn!

  21. My boyfriend has been raving about the best pizza he has ever eaten for weeks now, and last night, he decided to let me in on his secret and took me to Nonna Lina for supper.
    The food really was excellent. Perhaps all meals dont appeal to everyone and that is understandable, but the prawn and penne in a creamy tomato sauce which i experienced last night was the best meal i’ve had in a long time!
    We found the waiters to be friendly as well even though, the english wasnt as good with some of them. They score points for ambience aswell.

    That said, i dont think Jonathan was wrong in airing his opinion. I’ve been the recipient of atrocious service many a time and just wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Bad comments are meant to meant to make business owners up their game, as after all, nothing is perfect. A graceful acceptance of constructive criticism should bring Nonna Lina that one step closer to perfection. Nevertheless, Thanks for a wonderful evening Nonna Lina 🙂

  22. The food was amazing Friday night, pizza was excellent, the carpaccio amazing. Had a bottle of very smooth Italian sparking wine. Unfortunately the service was really slow, I had to ask twice how far our order was and my husband got the wrong order.

    I’ll definately go again as they were really busy and I don’t like to think of myself us unreasonable.

  23. I personally have had many good meals at Nonna’s. In fact, I rate their pizza as the best in Cape Town. Their service is also great. I’ve never had a bad experience there.

    That said, I’m disappointed in how the manager has responded to criticism. If I were him I would probably have said, “sorry dude, come by for a free pizza some time, and we’ll change your mind.”

  24. Came across this blog while Googling the telephone number for Nonna Lina but only read it after going there. We had an excellent meal with good service and great wine. Been back there again a week later and also received good service as well as a great meal. Interesting to note the restaurant was packed on both occasions. Thanks for a great evening, we’ll be back. Also…. it was my GP that recommended we go there, he said the food was excellent too, keep up the good work Antonello

  25. The above is a wonderful example of how “crowd sourcing” can be used by a commercial entity for commercial gain. If the company had spent as much time giving good service as posting to your blog you would have gotten a free dinner to make up a bad experience. It is simple to make up bad service when you treat your customers with respect. But fighting it out on a blog on the internet is poor form and proves your point.

    But to be honest I really did like the 3 “customer” posts in a row. If you would have waited to point it out later I bet more of these posts would have come in 3s.

  26. I LOVE Nonna Lina! Definitely my favourite restaurant by far. Eaten there loads of times over the past six years and the food has always been outstanding.

  27. Despite your post being already old, as you still come up as the second hit when googelin Nonna Lina…I think I should tell you that you might give it another chance…it seemed to have changed…at least to my experience.

    I was there for dinner just 5 or 6 weeks ago and so far recommended it to a couple of friends, whenever they asked me for a recommendable italian place in CBD… .

    I have to admit that – i was a little worried – as a foreigner, going out for dinner at such a central/prominent place…my experience from all over the world tells me it´s rare to get good value for money… .

    Different though at Nonna Lina…i think I ended up paying something like 160 bugs…we had a shared starter platter, which was really nice…I had some pasta with nice seafood all over…3 glasses of wine and a shared panna cotta as dessert…it was definitely a good deal for that, not even talking about the fact that table mountain was illuminated that evening and we sat outside witch perfect view under some heaters…service was friendly and nice..of course not quick…but show me one place in the entire SA you get that at that budget… .

    So my experience is a totally different one from yours… .

    With regard to your post, I am just wondering,looking also at the picture, which shows…a alright looking salami pizza…and man I tell you from that pic, that the salami wasn´t cut my friend, this are regular slices from a typicaly sized itlaian (small) salami…cheese looks ok (haven´t tasted it of course) and there are even olives on top of that….so here comes my question:

    What the hell do you expect for 45 bugs…getting a good looking pizza and a beer seems to be a pretty fair deal to me…I don´t know if prizes in CT have increased since you guys hosted the World Cup…but for me living in CT since end of 2010 and coming from europe…it´s sort of hard to understand what you expect…maybe you comment on that, I´d be interested to hear though…and talking about the power of the internet as one of the commentators did…what is so good about the fact that your more than 4 year old review is still the second hit on google…if you manage to explain that to me…I´m waiting to be convinced…

  28. There is never an excuse for shitty service. And/or a manager who actually argues with a customer! Don’t South Africans get it??? Anyway, we have been there 4 times over the last 3 weeks and had delightful meals and brilliant pleasant amusing service each time. Perhaps there’s been a change of management meanwhile? I can really recommend Nonna Lina – for me they have THE most authentic Italian pizza in town. And their carcioffi salad is DIVINE!! Portions possibly a little small for the price, but this seems to be the general trend these days. Yummy! A must-try!!!

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