South Africans may love chicken but so do the Italians who have been roasting birds on spits since the Etruscans in 700 BC. And 2000 years ago the Romans began making focaccia.
Inventor, artist and mathematician Leonardo da Vinci once worked at Florence’s Le Tre Lumache restaurant where the task of turning the spit in front of the kitchen fire was done by hand. Putting his mind to developing an alternative to this mundane manual task, Da Vinci sketched various versions of automated spit roasts that subsequently became the genesis of the machines used today.
The rise of mechanical spit-roasting in the 16th century saw the beginning of one of Italy’s much loved street foods: pollo allo spiedo – or chicken on the spit.
The ROSTO™ concept and name pay homage to origins steeped in history and tradition from the Italian peninsula. Our logo is inspired by the old yellow channel letter signs from the 1950s that shopkeepers put above their shops to tell everyone they had a spit.
We might have electricity to turn the motor in the 21st century but one thing which has NOT changed – we still cook in front of a wood fire for succulence and flavour bar none!
Recently opened Johannesburg restaurant Rosto will tap into South Africans on-going love for chicken. The focus of this new Linden eatery is on free range, ethically reared chicken cooked in the on-site wood-fired rotisserie oven. Rosto takes its names from Italy’s famous Girarrosto shops – literally meaning turn (gira) and roasted (arrosto) – which serve tender spit-roasted chickens and Italian street food.
The chicken is first made succulent with an infusion of Rosto’s secret homemade brine before being cooked on the wood-burning rotisserie which imparts a flavour that can’t be beaten. It comes in three portion sizes (whole, half and quarter) with three Italian inspired flavours – red (chili, sundried tomato and garlic), yellow (lemon and Mediterranean herbs) and green (parmesan and rosemary). The three flavour choices also apply to the delicious free-range wood fire-roasted chicken wings.
Rosto offers a number of Italian street food dishes, to be eaten either as starters or sides. These include panelle (Sicilian chickpea fries) and twice fried chips; arancini (risotto croquettes) which are stuffed with ragu (red), butternut and mozzarella (yellow) or spinach, ham and provolone (green). There is also slaw, green salad and corn on the cob.
Traditional focaccia, made with unbleached stoneground flour, extra virgin olive oil and a natural yeast which started its life nearly 100 years ago in a small family bakery in the foothills of the Alps, is sure to soon develop its own fan following.
For those wanting something other than poulty, there is a baked lasagna. Vegetarian options include spinach and ricotta cannelloni and parmigiana di Melanzane. Pasta is made from scratch in the restaurant using the best quality flour and free range eggs.
The dessert variety is kept small but classic with tiramisu, panna cotta, semifreddo and granita. Those looking for a caffeine kick can look forward to imported brews from Illy for that true Italian experience.
All dishes are available to take home. Rosto is currently waiting for its liquor licence.