The recently opened Big Italy pizza shop on the loud and frenetic Shlomo Hamelech St. in the city center is an oasis of cheese… and more cheese.
The restaurant, started about four months ago by Eliran Sharvit, looks like your typical Sbarro’s or Big Apple from the outside. However, inside, the only thing like those shops are its simple tables and plastic chairs.
Israel is not known for its pizza, but that’s because people have not tried the goods at this kosher l’mehadrin pizza shop.
The menu, rich with variety, starts with pizza. There are three kinds of crusts: standard, extra-thick and spelt flour. The crust has a flavor of its own, somehow sweet while also sprinkled with a dash of sesame seeds.
“This is the best pizza I ever had,” said one nine-year-old taste tester on a chilly Jerusalem evening that she spent working her way through a select number of Big Italy’s best.
The two-year-old taste tester finished an entire slice of pizza in an atypically short amount of time.
For the pizza, there is a large variety of toppings, from the typical ones, like cherry tomatoes and green or black olives, to the more unique offerings, such as pesto and pineapple or fresh basil leaves. This tasting team had a slice with artichokes.
The toppings are plentiful, but not too plentiful to take over the cheese. It’s unusual to describe pizza as having high-quality cheese, but this cheese is quite good.
Sharvit said that he developed his recipes over several decades in the food business and brought his best ones to Big Italy.
“I use only the best cheese, the best dough,” he told In Jerusalem
. “You don’t have to ask for extra cheese, there is always extra cheese.” He said the restaurant offers goat cheese, too.
The walls are printed with old license plates and street signs on one side and what looks like hand drawings – white on black – on the other. It’s funky and a little vintage in its feel, but the food is totally fresh.
In addition to the pizza, one finds a variety of pastas and raviolis, yogurt-based smoothies and ice creams, and some delectable hot desserts.
Five children ranging from two years old to 15 were able to polish off a bowl of cheese ravioli in minutes and they were begging for more.
“Mmm,” was the only sound heard around the table while they gobbled the pasta down, followed by a Caesar salad, also doused with just the right amount of parmesan.
The children said they enjoyed the variety of vegetables in cheese without any dressing.
For dessert, a Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce hit the spot. It was warm and fluffy, but also beautiful in its presentation.
This dinner was one of those rare occasions where no one complained about the food.
Sharvit, who lives in the heavily immigrant community of Har Nof, said he designed the restaurant with an American clientele in mind. He said being located so close to Mamilla shopping and the Kotel, he expects to attract American passersby. He thinks it will be easy to bring them in the door the first time, but he hopes that they become repeat customers.
On an average weekday, more than half of the people who came for pizza spoke English.
“I wanted to do something of high quality,” he told the Post
. “People don’t go out to eat to save money; they want a good product.”
That’s why he carries a selection of beers and wine, the latter from the boutique Yatir Winery, located in the nearby Yatir Forest.
Prices on the menu range from NIS 79 for an XL pizza to NIS 39 for a typical pasta dish and NIS 18 for a small ice cream or smoothie. But over the summer, Sharvit is offering several specials. A flyer advertised NIS 35 for a large pizza with a topping and NIS 15 for a slice and a can of soda.
“Can we come again?” the six-year-old girls asked on the way out of the restaurant.
It is likely that these taste testers will be back.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.Big Italy
16 Shlomo Hamelech St.
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