If you speak to anyone who has been in Kampala for any amount of time the ‘secret Italian’ or ‘unknown Italian’ restaurant in Bugolobi isn’t so much a secret as it’s just ‘THE Italian’ restaurant in Bugolobi. But, if you’ve only been in Kampala for a year or two then it’s not surprising that you’ve never heard of it.
Found on Spring Road in Bugolobi, directly across from Jazz supermarket and just past the big Shell, you might have a hard time spotting it initially. The restaurant doesn’t go out of its way to make itself known – it is not imaginatively titled called either the Italian Restaurant or Restaurant Italiano and the sign board is alternatively hanging or leaning against the wall. There is parking in the front which is limited but there is an askari.
Inside, the restaurant is bigger inside than it appears outside. There’s 8-10 tables under a covered patio and at least as many in the garden. Don’t go there for the ambiance, however, as the garden is dilapidated and garden seating is on dirt and gravel. A large rock boat planter sits right in the middle of the garden out of which grow several palm trees and an odd assortment of other plants and lightposts.
A substantial amount of their wine is served by the bottle which goes for between 24,000 UGX and 52,000 UGX although there is wine by the glass for 9,000 UGX . The bar with soda and waters for 2,000 and beers at 4,500 UGX
The menu is a dead ringer for most good Italian restaurants serving Antipasti (appetizers), Contorni (side dishes), Pesce & Frutti di Mare (fish and seafood), Secondi Piatti (fish mains), Primi Piatti (pasta dishes), Secondi (mains), Pizza (the same in every language!), as well as desserts and ice cream.
The pizzas are large so unless you’re very hungry share one. They’re also excellent. Prices are between 18,000 to 28,000 UGX. Toppings not normally found on pizzas in Kampala can be found here with the Quattro Stagioni being excellent and coming laden with anchovies, parma ham, cheese, and mushrooms. The promised fresh basil, however, did not appear. Lesson learned: you might not be told if a topping is missing so best to ask if they have everything prior.
Pasta dishes are supposedly reasonable and not overcooked something that’s not necessarily a given in Kampala. Cannelloini 20,000, Linguine, Tagliatelle, Ravioli, Rigatoni, Penne, lasagne, knocchi and good old fashioned Spaghetti are all on the menu for between 16,000-26,000 UGX.
The best part of the restaurant is arguably not the restaurant itself – but rather the ‘secret’ (once again) Italian shop at the back. As importers of a lot of the Italian imports coming into Kampala there’s a fairly sizeable shop at the back where you find pasta of every size and variety, olive oils, olives, wine, parma ham and, on a good day, varieties of cheese.
Those who have been around Kampala for years bemoan the dilapidation of this once-favourite restaurant where people would drive from Kololo just to pick up some ice cream but it’s still worth a visit if nothing else to discover the little store and to say you know exactly where the ‘secret Italian’ restaurant is.