Sapori restaurant in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: PR)
Chef Nicolai Kozlov is in high spirits as he flips bread in the air next to a traditional Italian brick pizza oven that forms the headpiece of the immaculate renovated kitchen of Sapori. He is busy preparing a meal for 30 bloggers and reviewers invited to a tasting to preview the latest addition to the capital’s list of Italian restaurants.
It’s winter in Jerusalem, and a warm Italian kitchen is inviting.
Moshe Peretz, who started his career by owning a Roladin branch, decided he wanted to bring something special to Jerusalemites. It isn’t like the capital doesn’t have Italian cuisine, but his concept is to do it a little differently.
“We wanted to make it kosher, but we also wanted to work with the best products from Italy,” he explains.
He also wanted to create an affordable restaurant.
“Nothing on the menu will be over NIS 100, except the whole fish specials,” he says.
A business lunch that includes an appetizer and main will be NIS 59.
Sapori is located on Keren Hayesod near Liberty Bell Park in the same location as Little Italy was before it closed its doors after 26 years of business. There is a pizza place next door. It is an excellent location, especially for tourists.
Peretz brought in Psagot red wine to accompany the tasting, and the owner and the winemaker of the vineyard were on hand to discuss their products. They paired well with the pastas and fish, although one might have liked to have a white wine as well.
Starters at Sapori include a burrata mozzarella salad and a generous sea bass ceviche. Burrata is a type of mozzarella that comes in a large ball that includes cream on the inside and is traditionally from southern Italy. I hadn’t seen this on a menu in Israel before, and it was one of the highlights.
The ceviche, with a small addition of avocado and basking in a gazpacho-themed sauce around it, was excellent.
Other courses were of varying quality. The “classic bruschetta” came on a thick bread that was almost moist on the inside, with tomatoes, garlic and basil on top.
The polenta, with a baked egg and asparagus, had a slight taste of hollandaise.
The guests were impressed. “It’s a shame we have to wait for the main dishes – I could eat just this for the whole meal.”
That was the downside of Sapori; the main dishes were less than heroic. The spinach pizza with Gorgonzola cheese was satisfactory as was the sweet potato ravioli, which could have used some salt. The beet salad was a fresh and healthy addition to the menu, but the mushroom-cream sauce pasta was relatively bland.
The salmon main was cooked perfectly and came with an imaginative dark pasta.
The real heroes of the evening were the extraordinary desserts.
The chocolate fondant, served on a long plate with ice cream and dry chocolate, was almost as sinful as the mousse and the lemon cake.
If Sapori can find a way to strengthen its main courses to bring them up to the level of the appetizers and desserts, it will be a Jerusalem success story and an Italian restaurant to write home about.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
38 Keren Hayesod, Jerusalem