(photo credit: PR)
An unassuming house in a residential neighborhood in Pardess Hanna is the unlikely location for a small restaurant dominated by a large white taboon, the source of virtually all the cooked dishes served at Roberta Vinci.
We arrived at lunchtime to discover a full house, so it’s a good thing we had reservations. The real surprise of the afternoon, however, was discovering that there are no English menus. The wait staff did a reasonable job of explaining things, but there are many food and beverage items on multiple menus, so I would recommend that at least one person in the party be comfortable reading a Hebrew menu.
Moreover, at least one of the wait staff had trouble even with the Hebrew menu. I asked if the restaurant served any specialty cocktails, and was told no but that there was a wine list. Surprise number two, therefore, was discovering a cocktail list in plain sight on the alcohol menu.
It turns out there are two house cocktails (NIS 38): the Roberta and the Pink Lady. The former is a blend of ginger ale, date liqueur and elderflower syrup, while the latter is basically a gin and tonic with a splash of pink lady apple syrup (minor surprise number three: the drink is not pink). Neither drink was particularly memorable, although they were refreshing enough on a hot summer afternoon.
On weekday afternoons until 5:00, Roberta Vinci serves only its business lunch menu: two-course meals – an appetizer and a main course, plus a soft drink – for one set price. The overwhelming majority of lunchtime main courses are pizzas; the rest are pastas, with the exception of one fish entrée (baked salmon). The dinner menu contains more variety, but still no meat or chicken.
When the restaurant fills up, the service can slow down; but once your order is in, you don’t have long to wait. Our first appetizer was focaccia topped with cherry tomatoes, red onion and black olives, served with a mild tomato salsa and olive oil with balsamic vinegar. The warm focaccia straight from the taboon gave us the impression that the pizzas would also be done right.
Our choice for the second appetizer was the roasted beet salad with baked ricotta, toasted hazelnuts and mixed greens in a balsamic vinaigrette. The large wedges of beet, together with the crunchy nuts and mild cheese, yielded a nice interplay of flavors, although they could have picked a cheese that stood up a little better to the robust beets.
Roberta Vinci’s pastas are al forno – baked in the taboon – and served in piping hot ceramic dishes. The radiatori pasta with fish balls (NIS 79) featured a zesty tomato sauce and fish balls that were admirably lacking in filler.
The cannelloni (NIS 69), filled with a well-balanced blend of spinach and ricotta, were bathed in a rosé Parmesan sauce that was quite good.
It was hard to keep from feeling that the rich sauce might be paired more appropriately with a pasta dish containing chicken or sausage.
We were neither served nor offered Parmesan cheese with our pasta, but it came soon after we requested it.
Desserts are listed on a blackboard, starting with typical Italian classics.
The pistachio panna cotta (NIS 38) on crumble was a light and sweet pudding nicely enhanced by grilled fresh plums.
The affogato (NIS 22) – vanilla ice cream drenched with espresso – was clearly made with good-quality ingredients, resulting in an ideal finale for a carb-heavy meal.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.Roberta Vinci
43 Ahuza, Pardess Hanna
Tel: (04) 603-7377
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