One of my favorite foods is pizza, so I am always on the look-out for a restaurant that makes pizza that I can enjoy.But I am usually disappointed, as most places I have been to in this country do not live up to my expectations. That is, until I had the good fortune to be invited to try out PIPS, a newly opened kosher Italian restaurant in downtown Jerusalem.
The place specializes in authentic Neapolitan pizza and pasta. In fact, the name of the small osteria is an acronym for pizza, pasta and salad, explains chef Rachel Dabbah, who co-owns PIPS with her husband, Benny.
Dabbah went to Naples to learn how to make pizza and pasta in true Neapolitan style. For the people of Naples, pizza is a badge of honor, and they are more proud of their national dish than Israelis are of felafel, she says.
With such an enticing build-up, I was very eager to try PIPS’s Neapolitan national treasure.
I am more than pleased to report that I was delighted with the result. The pizza was everything I always look for in my favorite dish: chewy crust, rich flavor and just the right cheese-totomato sauce ratio. It was perfect, and I could not have been happier.
I had the pizza with fresh mushrooms, while my dining companion was a little more adventurous and had the pizza with fresh eggplant and artichokes, which was also a winner.
The pizza dough is kneaded by hand, which is a 12-hour process, says Dabbah. It is baked in the restaurant’s large brick oven, which is set at 450 degrees. At that heat, it takes only two and a half minutes to bake the pizza, she says.
My companion and I also shared a green salad and a plate of fettuccine Alfredo with mushrooms. The salad was so simple, yet so tasty: crunchy fresh green lettuce, tomatoes and thinly sliced purple onion, delicately dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. The fettuccine Alfredo was much lighter than what one usually expects. The cream sauce was light and liquid rather than thick and heavy, making it very easy to eat and enjoy.
For dessert, we sampled the tiramisu and the mascarpone on a cookie base, covered with fresh strawberries and strawberry coulis. Both were delicious.
The prices at PIPS are very reasonable. The salads run from NIS 19 (small green salad) to NIS 39 (health salad). There are two types of pasta, which Dabbah makes by hand: long, flat fettucini and a shorter, twisted type of noodle called strozzapreti. The pasta dishes range from NIS 19 to NIS 35, depending on the sauce and/or other toppings. The pizzas range from NIS 19 to NIS 42, depending on the number and types of toppings. But the pizzas are all the standard Neapolitan size of 30 centimeters.
The desserts are NIS 19. And there is a soup of the day for NIS 15. The night we were there, they were serving sweet potato soup. I didn’t try it but I’m sure that, like everything else I sampled at PIPS, it was just right. There is also a small beverage list that features alcohol, beer and Israeli wine.
PIPS opened just four months ago, and Dabbah says that members of the Italian community have already discovered the place and are frequent customers.
“They tell me that they feel at home here,” she says with pride.
Dabbah imports many of her ingredients from Italy, such as the flour, the spices and the canned tomatoes (the same ones they use in Naples). The cheese is local, and she uses only the highest quality of mozzarella, buffalo cheese and Parmesan, she says.
“Our motto is ‘Good food and good ingredients at a good price,’” says Dabbah.
The restaurant has an indoor seating capacity of about 20. There are a few small tables in front on the pedestrian promenade of Havatzelet Street, which is just off Jaffa Road. And there is a garden at the back for outdoor dining.
I am looking forward to the spring, when I can enjoy my authentic Neapolitan pizza al fresco in the warm sunshine or under the stars. PIPS may be an acronym for pizza, pasta and salad, but in my books, it stands for “perfect Italian pizza – superb!”
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
5 Havatzelet St., Jerusalem Tel: (02) 624-5613
Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m to 11 p.m.
Saturday, one hour after Shabbat