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It's no secret that what appears on the menus of Italian restaurants here bears little relation to the food eaten by people in Italy, and I am pretty sure that a citizen of Piedmont or Lombardia would be very confused by half the dishes offered at Italian restaurants in our country.
However, while dining at Rustico, a small and cozy new place in Tel Aviv, I thought that somehow dining out at this kind of place can be pleasing, satisfying, comforting and even challenging - as long as the food is presented with care, skill and a spoon of charm.
Well, charm they got plenty of at Rustico. A large bar where colorful cocktails are poured and piping hot pizzas come out of a clay oven separates/ the restaurant's kitchen from the few tables in the dining room.
Though promising a slice of Italy, there are no surprises on the menu, which lists just about every "Israeli Italian" dish you could dream of, from prosciutto to spaghetti Bolognese, and a variety of pizzas.
For a starter we ordered the antipasti salad, which proved to be the big winner of our meal. An array of freshly cooked vegetables such as grilled peppers, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and roasted eggplant were nicely presented on the plate and created a pleasant harmony of tastes.
For our main course, we had a thin-crust pizza topped with a generous amount of prosciutto and fungi mushroom. It was quite good, but not special.
A place like Rustico lives or dies on its pasta. Spaghetti Bolognese made a good, clean impression, but the tagliatelle alla rucola came out a little spongy, and wasn't hearty enough for a main course.
The downside is that most of the food we had could have been much better had a little more effort been put into preparation, seasoning, presentation and cooking them to order.
The bill for three came to a reasonable NIS 170 including soft drinks, and a Campari orange cocktail.
Rustico. Sderot Rothschild 15, Tel Aviv. Open daily from 10 a.m. until the last guest leaves. Tel: (03) 510-0039 (not kosher)