In the heart of modern Tel Aviv nestles an architectural throwback to the Holy Land’s pre-Zionist era. For the past half century, the buildings of Sarona, a 140-year-old Templar colony, served as government offices or part of the IDF’s Kirya headquarters.

Now, the area has been converted into a hip new lifestyle center with parks, cafes, quality restaurants and shops – while preserving the former agricultural colony’s unique character.

One such enterprise is Piazza Rustico. The restaurant is an intimate place, and its unadorned charm makes you feel right at home. A feeling of privacy and seclusion is created as the tables are well spaced.

The noninvasive and helpful staff help create a relaxed, yet well run establishment. This is most definitely a place for people who enjoy their food.

Piazza Rustico features classic Italian antipasti and main dishes such as pasta, meat and seafood. Its wine list has a good selection of Italian, well- known Israeli and boutique wines.

Upon sitting down, we were met with homemade focaccia (NIS 15) served with a ceremonious mixing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A selection of starters followed, with Italian hits such as mozzarella burrata (NIS 48) – layers of roasted tomatoes, excellent mozzarella cheese with homemade pesto and fresh oregano – and excellent polenta funghi with roasted mushrooms and truffle oil (NIS 41) that was slightly sweet and very tasty. For me, that dish alone warrants a return visit.

We then sampled a series of pizzas (NIS 51-58), all of which had great consistency, with just the right amount of crunch. The pizzas were exceptional, among the best in Tel Aviv – a far cry from the olive, corn and tuna topped trash that has unfortunately become standard Israeli fare.

As it was a very warm night, our friendly waiter offered us a pitcher of ice-cold Sangria Bianco (NIS 78), which was very well received.

After a bit of a breather, I was informed by the staff that the fish was one of Rustico’s strong suits. Wanting to see for myself, I selected the catch of the day. On this particular day the special dish was grilled drum fish (NIS 116) served with asparagus, pappardelle in a lemony cream sauce and chopped chives. They did not disappoint on their claim, as I found it to be exquisite This was followed by chicken liver pappardelle (NIS 66). I can still taste the fine flavors of the large pieces of homemade pasta, the sweet red wine sauce and the perfectly cooked chicken livers that came together to make this such a memorable dish. A bit of a disappointment, however, was the scallopini marsala (NIS 79). The meat was thick and showed no signs of having been pounded, while the sauce was overpowering.

When dessert was brought out, I wanted to politely decline. It looked fabulous, but I didn’t want anything to interfere with the myriad of flavors that I had just experienced. Thankfully, my dining partner was game, so we had a delicious cherry shortcake (NIS 41) and tiramisu (NIS 41).

We were sorry to leave the merry crowd that filled the place. Although very new, Piazza Rustico will become popular for good reasons – it serves very good Italian food in an authentic rural Italian-style setting, with gracious and friendly service. Whenever you plan to go, make sure to reserve a table in advance.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Not Kosher Piazza Rustico
Not Kosher
22 Kaplan Street
Sarona, Tel Aviv.
(03) 558-8654

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