Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

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Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby Joel D Parker » Thu Oct 07, 2010 4:27 am

Hi Daniel and Forumites who are familiar with Tel Aviv's dining scene:

Tel Aviv, we have a near crisis, from what I'm seeing. I don't know how or why this has happened but Tel Aviv has lost nearly all it's decent Italian restaurants to closure or the horrible trap of mediocrity. My wife and I have different tastes in food, but we generally can agree on a good Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, we've either had terrible service or mediocre food at all of the Italian places we've re-visted in the last six months. Some of them we actually used to find charming, but now can't stand.

Amici: closed. Darn. it had some promise.
Pasta Mia: Despite fresh pasta, nothing seems up to par. Tragedy.
Il Pastaio: Family style to a fault. The food had all the spiciness and zest of Chef Boyardee last time we were there. I don't know what happened.
Uno (kosher): seems to be going downhill from it's position already halfway down the hill.
Pronto: still there, and supposedly still good, but I haven't been there in a while. Expensive, but presumably good.
Cucina Tamar: terrible experience last time I was there, but maybe still some good dishes.
Mel & Michelle: great atmosphere, but only just above average food, good pizza. Recommended, if you're not expecting too much.
Radio Rusco: still there. Don't know how it is now, but I assume they still have good pizza too.
Picolla Pasta: terrible experience with service last time we were there. Not going back.
Phillipe Pizza: no wine list now. Pizza is less good than Radio Rusco or Mel & Michelle IMO, but alright if you get tons of toppings. Nothing like Southern French pizza, which they claim.
Bellini: not sure, inconsistent, really a risk.
There's a newish restaurant near the Carmel Shuq called Pappa's which frankly, sucks. They still charge regular prices though.

I don't know why, but this really annoys me that there are almost no choices for decent Italian. Of course you can always just go to Pronto over and over, but man, for a city with a million people in its metro area, you would think that someone could produce fresh, tasty and reasonably priced Italian food.

Joel
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Re: Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby Daniel Rogov » Thu Oct 07, 2010 6:33 am

Joel, Hi...

I'll not only agree with you but will go a step further in stating that the vast majority of restaurants, including some of the very best in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the periphery seem to have found themselves on a rather slippery slope. Perhaps a good thing that I am no longer writing restaurant criticism, because so much of what I have found lately has been disappointing.

There are exceptions of course, but I see several major factors/possibilities at play in this downhill movement :

(a) Many diners have decided that the fine dining with which they became enamored is now passe and they are looking for simpler meals at simpler prices.
(b) Some chefs, in responding to the above and in the hunt for less pricey raw materials and a less complex battery of staff, have thrown up their hands and to some extent are showing despair.
(c) At least some chefs seem to be suffering from a sense of ennui - that is to say, "tired" of the hassle of doing business.

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Re: Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby Joel D Parker » Thu Oct 07, 2010 7:13 am

Huh,

That's really funny, because it confirms my hunch too. I've had mediocre experiences even at Messa and Rafael in the last couple of months :cry: I'm not saying these restaurants are terrible, but yes the word "ennui" describes my experiences perfectly!

On the other hand, places that always advertised quality and simplicity like Stefan Brown, seem to have stepped up their game just a bit.

Maybe it's the terribly hot and unending summer we've had that's killed some of the motivation both of chefs and eaters alike???

Joel
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Re: Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby David H » Fri Oct 08, 2010 12:05 am

I don't get to Tel Aviv often now, but when I did I would happily go to Osteria da Fiorella for a non-pretentious, delicious meal. Is it still operating? Is it still good?
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Re: Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby Mike_F » Sat Oct 09, 2010 6:04 pm

Not all is lost in Tel-Aviv. We hosted a colleague from the U.S.A. at Carmella baNachala this evening, all in all a very pleasant experience at very reasonable prices for the quality. The first courses in particular are very well-executed with excellent fresh ingredients, and the wine list includes fine Israeli boutique wines, including Pelter Chardonnay and Bravdo Cabernet in carafe sizes at a fair price. Service was good and ambiance excellent, as always. A restaurant that usually does not surprise, but certainly does not disappoint. Still well worth visiting IMVHO.

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Re: Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby Daniel Rogov » Sat Oct 09, 2010 7:56 pm

David H wrote:I don't get to Tel Aviv often now, but when I did I would happily go to Osteria da Fiorella for a non-pretentious, delicious meal. Is it still operating? Is it still good?



David, Hi....

When Fiorella first opened on Ben Yehuda on the corner of Bogroshov, the place was an absolute delight. Quite some while ago she and her husband moved to new premises, still on Ben Yehuda but closer to Ben Gurion and, in my opinion, as delightful as Fiorella is as a person, the quality of the cuisine has been on a steady downhill roll for the last 3 - 4 years. No longer on my list of recommended restaurants.

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Re: Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby Avi Hein » Sun Oct 10, 2010 5:42 am

Not Tel Aviv but the best Italian that I have found (note: kosher dairy, so no meat) is in Jerusalem - owned by Italian immigrants and charming and quaint. Angelo's, Angelo 9 Horkanos Street, Downtown Jerusalem 02-6236095. Fresh pasta, the wine list is mediocre (Carmel Private Collection is the nicest wine they have - not that there's anything wrong with it) but it's casual and good.
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Re: Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby ChaimShraga » Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:43 pm

Cafe Italia.
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Re: Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby Daniel Rogov » Sun Oct 10, 2010 7:01 pm

Indeed, I agree comfortably with Chaim's recommendation for Cafe Italia. Lovely setting, not too formal but not too casual, responsive service and consistently well prepared traditional Italian dishes.

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Re: Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby MarkC » Fri Oct 15, 2010 4:04 am

I've noticed this trend for a while now. Staying in business is all about cost-engineering. Notice how many garbanzo beans you'll find in your seafood salad, compared to the miniscule amount of seafood. It's also resulted in a kind of homogeneity - the menus at all the good restaurants are more or less interchangeable. And you can't really blame it on the bad economy anymore. For most Israelis, dining out is more of a social, rather than a culinary experience - not such a bad thing, I guess.
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Re: Tel Aviv is sliding into a low-grade Italian abyss

Postby Joel D Parker » Sun Oct 17, 2010 6:46 am

The family went to Pronto this past Friday, and sadly, this was not a wholly good experience. We shared an 'antipasti' started, which was quite underwhelming indeed. Even less well thought of restaurants like Amoro Mio and Bellini have far better antipasti. Then we had four pasta main dishes, three of which were ranged in the 60-70NIS range, and basically decent, a gorgonzolla gnocci, a cheese ravioli, and a tagiatelli bolognaise dish.

I wanted to step it up just a bit, and ordered the recommended pasta al tartuffo, which sounded like a good truffle mushroom dish. Even though the smell was quite potent, the dish itself lacked any sense of texture, flavor, or zing. It consisted of noodles with oil and some finely chopped portabello mushrooms and a healthy dose of real truffle butter. All this for about 90NIS or 25$. Honestly, it was a real disappointment. I even took about 1/3 of this dish home to see if perhaps I had missed something, but no, there was simply nothing there other than the powerful smell of truffles. My opinion is that if you're going to use a very expensive ingredient, you should make sure the dish as a whole keeps up with the ingredient.

The service was good, and atmosphere as well. We enjoyed the tiramisu for dessert, though it is not very sweet at all. The wine menu seemed very good for Tel Aviv, though I didn't study it carefully. It looked educational, as it is based on regions within Italy with explanations for each section both in English and Hebrew.

Overall, I cautiously recommend this restaurant, as slightly above average, but expect to spend a good amount if you want to eat and drink well there. I imagine it is a good choice if you're in the area of Rothschild/Nahmani and want to try the business lunch Sunday-Thursday.
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