Salvation Café wins Joburg's Best Cheesecake

24 May 2023
Salvation Café at 44 Stanley has won the title of Best Cheesecake in Joburg, as judged by the team devoted to finding the 'best of Joburg', Anele and the club from 947 (May 2023).

It's a big win, so we caught up with owner and chef Claudia Giannoccaro to find out more. Proud of her (Afr)italian heritage, Giannoccaro is inspired by a passion for authentic and down-to-earth cuisine (and really good cheesecake). 
Salvation Cafe win best cheesecake
It's official – Salvation Café win Best Cheesecake in Joburg from Anele and the club at 947. Photo: 947.

What does it feel like to win the title for Best Cheesecake in Joburg? 
It's such an honour to be recognised, after 16 years of only hearing from customers that it's the best cheesecake! Although our customers voted for us to be part of the competition without us even knowing, and now we have the title for 947 Best Cheesecake in Joburg. We feel so grateful to all our customers for recognising us, voting for us and giving us the opportunity with 947.

When did you first taste cheesecake? 
It was 25 years ago when I worked as a chef on a private sailing yacht owned by an American. Americans love cheesecake and it was always one of the desserts I would make for the guests. I did this for 10 years, so I can say I hope by now, 25 years down the line, I've figured out how to make a good cheesecake!
Salvation Cafe cheesecake at 44 Stanley
That cheesecake! Judged the best in Joburg. Find it at Salvation Café, at 44 Stanley. Photo: Salvation Café.

How long has your now-famous cheesecake been on the menu?  

Sixteen years, which is as long as Salvation Café has been going.

How long did it take you to perfect the recipe?
It changed when I moved back to South Africa. I used to make it in the States with Philadelphia cream cheese and Graham crackers, which would make it unaffordable here. So I can say I discovered it in the United States, and perfected it in Joburg. 

The one ingredient you can’t do without?
My staff, who can consistently keep things consistent. 

How has life changed since winning the title? 
(Laughs)... Life has actually been turned upside down. We used to make two cheesecakes a day for our restaurant and now we make more than eight – and running out before lunch! Juggling production with load-shedding during our working hours has been a challenge. We don't like saying 'sold out' to our customers, so we keep pushing as much as we can.   

"44 Stanley is like a little island with so much beauty, and maybe one of the only reasons I can survive in a city environment."

Salvation Café is legendary for its breakfasts and now for its cheesecake. To what do you attribute this?  
Hard work of course, and being committed to striving for consistency and quality food made with care.  

As one of the most popular spots at 44 Stanley, where does your food story start? 
Circumnavigating the globe working on a private sailing yacht for 10 years. I had the opportunity to discover new foods along the way. When I returned home I wanted to share my food discoveries in a down-to-earth atmosphere, and 44 Stanley was the perfect spot. Sixteen years ago there weren't many cafés and cool breakfast spots around, and I wanted to share this with Joburg. 
Salvation Cafe at 44 Stanley
One of Joburg's most welcoming spaces, Salvation Café's courtyard at 44 Stanley. Photo: Robyn Davie.

44 Stanley turns 20 this year and Salvation Café is an anchor. Why did you choose 44 Stanley and what makes you stay there? 
I lived on the ocean for a long time visiting the most beautiful places. It's tough at times for me to live in Joburg with the difficult elements and city life, but 44 Stanley is like a little island with so much beauty, and maybe one of the only reasons I can survive in a city environment. I would find it hard to be in a mall. 

What pairs best with a slice of your cheesecake?
Our amazing cappucino.

Protocol for ordering?  
Have breakfast or lunch with us and finish with a slice of cheesecake, or call ahead on +27 11 482 7795 or email to book a slice. 

Why did you call it Salvation Café? 
Food is our salvation. I started my shop with little money and all the furniture was bought from auctions or salvaged furniture. 44 Stanley was all about saving old buildings and transforming them into new spaces, so Salvation Café was fitting.

What’s next on the menu for Joburg's reigning cheesecake champions? 
We believe that we have always been way ahead of the times, so we don't need to change our menu much. Our customers would be upset if we do. Our biggest challenge and mission is to strive for consistency. So, if you first discovered us 16 years ago and had our cheesecake or one of our Eggs Benedicts and it's still served and tastes the same, then we're on the right track. This does not mean we won't introduce new dishes along the way here and there, because it's always been about serving quality food. 


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