Destination: Southern Italy

For a relaxing, reasonably priced Italian meal in convivial surroundings, head for Italkia B’tachana.

Fish carpaccio (photo credit: Courtesy)
Fish carpaccio
(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 ( 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 served.
The wine list is split between Italy and Israel.
Don’t 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.
The Mediterranean 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.
The 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 sorbet-like flavor.
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.

Not Kosher

The writers were guests of the restaurant