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Looking back at many of my trips around the world, I believe it's the foods I remember most. Though, my trips to Europe always seemed to be plagued with lack of varietyfor vegetarians. Italy, however, was a vegetarian's heaven.
Alright, to be honest, I've only been to Milan - once. My stopover was for 36 hours on my way back to Israel from India. (Somehow, airlines create an amazing detour in which Europe is enroute to the Middle East from Asia.)
During this day and a half, I crammed in lasagna, great espresso, gelato, panini and the greatest pizza I've ever had at a small trattoria complete with red and white checkered table cloths spread over simple wooden tables, candles in chianti bottles and some nice Italian music in the background. I was just waiting for the chance to roll a vegetarian meatball to a passing tramp.
Sadly, no tramp passed (depending upon your social outlook).
Fortunately, at my recent visit to Neve Tzedek's lovely Bellini, an Italian restaurant in a romantic Tuscan style, I did have a date - though more lady than tramp.
The beautiful Bellini is located in the courtyard of the beautiful Suzanne Dellal Center. The emphasis here is on simplicity: good ingredients and, to be sure, good pasta. The delicious house wine, a Primitivo Zinfandel Roca Alta 2007, is served in an unmarked bottle as if it's straight from the theoretical house vineyard, just out back.
We started with one of my favorites, insalata caprese - a salad that needs nothing more than great basic ingredients: balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil. Each bite was a perfect delight. For a main course we had the gnocchi quattro formaggi - a familiar sauce of four cheeses, cream and tomatoes. Once again, prepared to perfection.
My carnivorous date had the veal sirloin, finishing it in seconds. We also tried the farfalle Milanese. A sweet and unique dish of butterfly-pasta in a sauce of aubergines and honey, mushroom, feta cheese, pine nuts and red shatta pepper.
For dessert we had a nice tiramisu. Though not one of my favorites, the lady liked it. Being the Frank Sinatra that I am, I allowed it.
We finished the meal with the house Limoncello. Simply put, it was one of the best I've ever had. While this liqueur usually tastes like a melted lemon Popsicle, this one wasn't too sweet, with a real lemony flavor and very refreshing.
All through June and July, Bellini celebrates the Italian Sagra dei Limoni - The Lemon Festival. Special lemon dishes are available, such as veal escalope in a sauce of white wine, cream, lemon, capers and artichoke hearts and chicken scaloppini served in a cream and lemon sauce on a bed of linguine - and more. The house Limoncello will be available at special prices.
I'll definitely be visiting again for some of the veggie, lemony treats. Though I can't say the same for my lady friend. While she was into the cuisine, she was less fond of me.
Bellini - 6 Yehieli St.Tel Aviv; (03) 517-8486 - is open Sun.-Sat. from noon to midnight; not kosher. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.