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Da Eros delightful and not dear!

I had almost 1 000 e-mails on my company PC after returning from a five week working holiday to England, Scotland, Wales and the United Arab Emirates.

Eating Out with Dusty Miller

At least 850 could safely be deleted without even opening. The rest needed to be read, often acknowledged and frequently answered, although a couple of dozen were invitations that were overtaken by events.

Three or four were from Nevio Prandini, chef-patron at Da Eros Taverna, the usually splendid Italian eatery in East Road, Avondale, Harare being fairly mysterious about “developments and changes” in the Prandini empire.

The family is Ethiopian-Italian and once ran the popular Italian Bakery in Avondale, where Café Nush, an Iranian operation, is now.

It was Tuesday lunch before I could get round to look in and the first changes noticed were two take-away hatches, the one selling mainly pizzas but also offering all dishes on the main menu and a second, serving frozen yoghurt.

Nevio says, and I’m sure he’s right, this is the first outlet selling this delightful ice-cream-like (but healthier for you) dessert. When we discussed this project about six months ago, I confessed I was a great fan of the stuff (can you believe they give it away next to swimming pools on international cruise ships?) Fair enough the voyage costs two-or-three grand, but you can stuff yourself with frozen yoghurt until you burst!

My reservation was that few Zimbabweans would have ever heard of it, let alone tasted it and he’s experienced that since commissioning the machine he imported from Italy about a month ago, swiftly followed by another installed at Westgate’s cinemas.

Apparently, once Zimbos taste this heavenly creamy treat, they’re hooked. I admit I’m totally addicted, but haven’t been cruising for a couple of years!

At Da Eros, you get a lot of free stuff (but not frozen yoghurt). A nice garden salad and delicious light loose-crumbed yet crusty Continental bread and bread sticks come to the table before you’ve even ordered, along with ultra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and dips.

Having just toured the Disunited Kingdom for over four weeks, I assure you many restaurants there charge ­— heavily — for those sort of items and, often, hit you later with a service charge you didn’t know about! (Or try to!)

Da Eros has an extensive large padded faux-leather menu (due to change in minor details two days ago) listing authentic Italian dishes, but from the daily special A5 printed menu I chose the US$15 daily two-course special.

On Tuesday it was more salad: a mixed seafood mélange on a bed of lettuce as a starter. It contained small prawns and large shrimps, line fish and chopped crab sticks (probably with more, unidentified, fishy specimens) in a garlicky-creamy sauce; pleasantly chilled on a warmish day. It went well with the last more-ish bread and salted butter, remnants of my original free salad and quaffs of icily cold Golden Pilsener Lager.

Many top-grade restaurants serve an amuse bouche (a small chef’s speciality dish, free and often unannounced) designed to tickle, entertain or amuse the palate/mouth (“bouche”) before conventional starter courses. At Da Eros it wasn’t small and came between starter and mains, comprising a new dish: Fegatini du pollo su focaccia.

They are humble chicken livers, but cooked to perfection in white wine, with onions, garlic, and a slight hint of chili, served on focaccia bread. It was truly wonderful, but far too large to be properly classed as an appetiser.

Serve roughly half of it as a starter or offer it as a main course.

This was a chef’s sample, which I ate with Nevio, who had a similar-sized portion; neither of us could finish.

In my case because I was looking forward to the second half of the special lunch. For some odd reason they never use proper Italian names for specials, so it was pork fillet strips cooked (stir-fried) with ginger, garlic, green peppers and onion and served on lip-smacking linguine pasta.

That was excellent value-for-money at US$15 but I was told the restaurant launched what it calls Crazy Thursday (from this week) whereby punters can eat as much as they like/can for US$15; no exceptions, I’m assured: anything on the menu including prawns and steaks; one, two, three or four courses.

Believe it or not, I’m more of a nibbler and avoid these bun-fights, like avoid reading Herald of total honesty! I’m sure it will be a winner.

I was brusquely told not to bother perusing the pudding section on the menu, as I had to try frozen yoghurt. And so it came to pass that I thoroughly enjoyed a strawberry-flavoured one, generously topped with fruits of the forest and drizzled with raspberry syrup. These are US$2-US$3 on the menu; takeaways you build your own and pay accordingly.

Nevio told me he had also opened a takeaway at Montagu Avenue Shopping Centre somewhere near where Da Guido’s operated with mixed fortunes for many years before a disastrous fire razed the premises.
I had neither time nor appetite for the final two free items diners receive: a shot glass of fiery limoncello digestif (citrus-flavoured grappa) and a piece of fruit (on Tuesday an apple.)

Da Eros, East Road, Avondale (opposite Belgravia Sports Club) Opens Tuesday-to-Sunday 10am-10pm. Very child, and quite handicapped, friendly. Eating indoors, out, or on a stoep.

Pleasant background music: standards of the 50s-80s, sometimes light opera; fully licensed, attractively priced wine list. They don’t usually charge corkage if you BYOB. Safe guarded parking in the grounds or immediately outside.

Booking is sensible and usually vital on Sunday lunchtimes when they often have live music.
Tel 332044; 0776 218 272.

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