(photo credit: Courtesy)
The homey interior seating area of Italkia B’tachana, the new Southern Italian
restaurant located at Mitcham Ha’tachana (The Station Compound) in Neveh Tzedek,
smelled like pleasant buttery shrimp and freshly baked dough when we arrived on
a warm autumn evening. The aroma is understandable, given the restaurant’s
specialty in seafood.
The owners are Lior Ben-Adi and chef Amir
Markovitch, former proprietors of the French restaurant Forelin on Frishman on a
property slated to turn into a skyscraper.
The new location couldn’t be
more fitting for their latest venture, a big step up in size and operation from
the small French restaurant. Mitcham Ha’tachana, the quaint outdoor
entertainment and shopping center, was built on the ruins of the Mandate period
train station across from the shore. The prime real estate, like the restaurant,
is stylized with European tones while successfully avoiding kitsch. The
restaurant is packed nightly, with the well-equipped staff constantly carrying
out dishes to a happy-looking crowd.
To make the culinary transition from
France to Italy, the owners preceded the opening of the restaurant with a trip
to Southern Italy, where they tasted food, got recipes from the locals and took
in the atmosphere, all documented in a blog that served as premarketing before
the opening (http://italiantlv.blogspot.com/.) The results are Italian dishes
with a Mediterranean touch. Some menu offerings are down to earth, such as
salads, pastas, and pizza, while the seafood dishes and entrees aspire to a
little more sophistication. Breakfast and business lunches are also
The wine list is split between Italy and Israel.
fill up on the rectangular focaccia, served with scrumptious kalamata olives and
balsamic with olive oil. It’s not fluffy enough to justify too many bites before
the main meal. The Caprese salad (NIS 44) was fresh and satisfying in its
simplicity: a chunk of mozzarella enveloped by cherry tomatoes and garnished
with basil. The high quality of the raw materials was also felt in the Sicilian
artichoke salad (NIS 30).
The artichokes are splendidly cooked in an
infusion the menu calls a Catalonian secret and flavored with a mild lemony
paste. They hit the spot as an appetizer.
influence was striking in the calamari e melanzane (NIS 42) – sautéed calamari,
onions and dried tomatoes on a bed of roasted half eggplant with yogurt sauce
and coriander. While a commendable effort, the flavors of the ingredients meshed
together rather than accentuated each other. Salt helped.
high-quality pasta is made fresh daily off the premises. It overpowered our
generous helping of fettuccine Alfredo di Lello (NIS 70). Portobello, champignon
and black truffles made up a subtle cream sauce felt more in the aroma than in
its consistency. The grilled sea bass (NIS 110) came with a delicious eggplant
mash and a sweet and sour lemony sauce that seemed a bit out of place in its
We capped the meal with a delightful cannoli (NIS 37)
and an average tiramisu (NIS 38), but it was the homemade Italian lemon liqueur,
limoncello, that served as the perfect dessert.
Italkia B’tachana is like
a pleasant culinary way station – a place to stop for a good, relaxing Italian
meal at fair prices in a charming ambience conducive to good conversation and
romantic dates. Some dishes could use the exactness of French cuisine to achieve
a greater balance of Italian and Mediterranean flavors. But the restaurant has
only been open for four months, so with a bit more refinement it could become a
prime Italian destination.
The writers were guests of the