Oli watches the final stage of the Tour de France at a Cape Town institution with Mark Cavendish’s grandma.
- By Oli Munnik
Giovanni’s, the Italian deli and coffee bar in Green Point, is almost a daily institution for residents living on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard. Whether it’s your morning/afternoon coffee and pastry fix, the venue for a meeting or simply a place to relax with a coffee, the sun at your back and catch up on the day’s news, Giovanni’s is a vibe!
For cyclists, Giovanni’s is their chance to ‘live the Italian dream’! I was first introduced to the spot, many moons ago, by David George who had recently moved back permanently to South Africa from Lake Como, where he had been based for many years. I was but a young grasshopper, soaking up the chance to ride with the oke who was regularly featured in magazines and displayed on shop walls in massive life size posters, not to mention he being the King of the Giro del Capo! If he was gonna stop (after only 30min of riding) for coffee then I suppose I was too! Over the years I have come to appreciate that time spent at Gio’s is time well spent!
I’ll be honest though, there is a catch … in stark contrast to the setting, ambiance and quality, Giovanni’s manages to earn its fair share of criticism from some of Cape Town’s population. It is notorious, mostly in circles other than those on the Atlantic Seaboard, for offering indifferent service, its impersonal staff and don’t get me started on trying to settle the bill.
I used to be one of the southern suburb okes quietly bemoaning the off-handish service dished out by Mehmet, Pierro and Michael, the three main okes behind the bar. However, a simple shift in my understanding caused a cataclysmic development in my appreciation for the awesomeness that is Giovanni’s. That shift happened after spending time in Italy and experiencing firsthand that nonchalant service is the order of the day. What you get at Giovanni’s is exactly what you find in the bars/coffee shops of Italy, and simply put, it is what it is! While sitting there with my ballie one morning, having recently spent time together in Liguria, I realised that one simply has to accept the detachedness of their service. They weren’t going to change for us! Over the months however, and especially since moving to Sea Point, I’ve got to know the guys (and they me) and this has made all the difference.
As if you didn’t know, this past Sunday saw the conclusion of the 2012 Tour de France. After a solid training session with my cousin Charlie Keey and Kyle, Sanchez’s understudy, I eased over to Gio’s to relax and (hopefully) watch the culmination of the three week suffer-fest that saw a few guys cycling around the lanes of France … and those Alpine and Pyrenees switchbacks!
I didn’t know whether the petrol heads, who usually watch Formula 1 on Sundays, would allow lycra to dominate their TV screens. With a late start for the final stage of The Tour, I was in luck. The chequered flag had been waved for Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and the German Grand Prix was over. A feisty elderly women sitting at Gio’s, Mrs Cavendish (relationship to Mark unknown until he won, when she was his grandma!), dealt a blow to the cricket fans who were about to watch Amla reach a triple ton when she out-gunned them getting the TVs tuned to stage 21 of the Tour with about 86km to go. When resistance was offered in favour of the cricket, she insisted that cricket was “a terrible sport that nobody actually watched”! Mehmet immediately realised this Gran wasn’t to be messed with. So with the tour left on, we had a result!
In a matter of minutes Gio’s was packed with people mesmerised by the beauty and speed of the tour. Amazing, given that most of them were non-cyclists! Hearing all the comments, opinions and predictions was amusing to say the least. Everyone’s an expert these days. Mrs Cavendish was continually asking which one Mark was, while the oke behind me said that he’d heard the T de F isn’t that hard!! Come crunch time, Sagan definitely had the fastest turn of speed, but sport is cruel, and he found himself starting his sprint a few bike lengths behind an inform Cavendish who had the perfect lead out. Luck is very seldom involved in winning, and Team Sky’s dominance in this year’s tour goes to show how, in spite of lamb chop sideburns, ‘ventless’ helmets and never once getting off your saddle, absolute focus, determination and belief got Wiggins, with the help of his team, onto the top step of the podium in the greatest sporting event in the world!
Something I also realised is that absolute focus, determination and belief can get you a cup of coffee and a brioche at Giovanni’s!
Oli is currently living the dream as a professional mountain biker, racing for the GT squad based out of Cape Town. Keep up with Oli on his blog http://olivermunnik.wordpress.com