Welcome to Week 30 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Fama Deli, Johannesburg’s Jamonópolis.
When I first started the #Gauteng52 challenge, I put out a call to my readers and friends asking for recommendations on places to go. (If you’re one of the recommenders, don’t worry if I haven’t visited your place yet. I’m working slowly through the list.)
One of the most intriguing recommendations came from my friend Robyn, who suggested a visit to the “Jamón Man”.
The Jamón Man is a man who sells jamón (Spanish for ham). Well actually it’s not just one man; it’s a man and his wife and their staff. And it’s not just ham; the Jamón Man sells every kind of pork imaginable, cured in the traditional Spanish style. And the place is not actually called Jamonópolis de Johanesburgo, as the sign says; its official name is the Fama Deli.
Other than that it’s all exactly like it sounds.
The Fama Deli is in Lorentzville, a downtrodden Joburg neighborhood not far from Maboneng. The first notable thing is the crazy entrance: The big sign, “Bienvenidos at la Jamonópolis de Johanesburgo”, is impossible miss, surrounded by bright red and yellow paint and Winnie the Pooh stickers. (There’s a nursery school upstairs.) The deli is on the ground floor, behind a complicated and highly secure series of doors.
Inside, a porky wonderland awaits.
The Fama Deli: Jamonopólis de Johanesburgo
The Fama Deli has an interesting story. It was founded in 1987 by Roberto Sa Gimenez, a Spanish immigrant. Roberto learned the trade of making Spanish cured meat from his father, who learned it from Roberto’s grandfather. But Roberto is a bachelor and had no one to whom he could hand down his knowledge.
Before retiring, Roberto met Nuno Fernandes, who was running a chain of cafés and often bought meat from the Fama Deli. (Interestingly, Nuno worked as a mechanical engineer before moving into the restaurant business.) Roberto felt Nuno and his wife Carla were the perfect people to take over the business. So Roberto sold Fama Deli to the Fernandeses and taught them everything he knew.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Nuno and his wife are Portuguese, not Spanish. (There are very few Spaniards in South Africa, while there are thousands of Portuguese.) But they continue to cure all their meats in the Spanish style, rather than smoking them in the more common Portuguese style.
I tasted pretty much everything. It was all delicious.
Nuno took us to the curing room in the back, where the temperature and humidity are strictly controlled.
The Fama Deli supplies many shops and restaurants around the country but it’s also open for retail, Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Saturday from 8:00 to 2:00.
The Fama Deli is at 12 Viljoen Street, Lorentzville. Call +27-11-618-3048.