A testament to high standards

At Piazza in Tel Aviv, no ordinary flour will do for the pasta and pizza.

Piazza restaurant  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Piazza restaurant
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Using more than a dozen different types of specialty flour for various dishes in his restaurant may seem a little over the top, but for chef Shai Dovlero at Piazza in Tel Aviv, it comes naturally and is a testament to his high standards.
The charismatic chef, who gained his expertise at some of the best restaurants in the country, such as Mul Yam, Toto and Raphael, is proud of his attention to detail and says that each flour has its own distinct taste and quality. To make the experience for diners as authentic as possible, Dovlero imports specialist flours from Italy and other locales to ensure that each dish includes the appropriate raw ingredients.
Upon a recent visit to the intimate traditional Italian restaurant, I saw with my own eyes all the bags of flour that he was talking about, as some of them were on display in one of the large windows that face onto busy Dizengoff Street. The sacks lie next to various tins and packages of quality ingredients that Dovlero and his staff use in the open kitchen that is visible to all. It’s not at every restaurant that you would want to see these packages lying around the front of the house, but at Piazza it’s all part of the laid- back approach and focus on a homey environment.
Despite the busy setting, Piazza offers a kind of oasis in the middle of a bustling city. With its open courtyard replete with plants and romantic lighting at night, as well as the high ceilings and rustic design inside, it’s a very welcoming place to have a meal.
We started with a mini truffle pizza topped with a soft-boiled egg (NIS 26). The extremely rich taste of the truffle worked very well with the freshly baked crust, while the soft-boiled egg added an extra dimension to the simple yet sophisticated dish.
In addition, we sampled an ample portion of focaccia (NIS 24) served with various dips. The bread had just the right combination of softness and crispiness, while the dips were fresh and flavorful.
For the main course, we sampled the spinachi pizza (NIS 54), which consisted of spinach cream, mozzarella, feta and a fried egg on top. Considered one of the house specialties, the pizza is unique in that it doesn’t have a tomato sauce as a base, but the spinach cream acts as the main sauce. As if the tasty cheeses weren’t enough to round off the excellent flavors, the fried egg completed the dish perfectly.
Despite the fact that it was a hot summer day, I couldn’t resist trying the rich and heavy chestnut gnocchi (NIS 64). Served with mushrooms and a thick sauce, the gnocchi was bursting with flavors.
While a salad or light pasta dish may have been more appropriate, I didn’t regret my decision for a second and even proceeded to mop up the remaining sauce with some of the fresh bread that was left over from the starters.
Not surprisingly, after all the bread and heavy dishes, we were rather full. But that didn’t stop us from sampling some of the extensive dessert menu. It was a difficult choice, but we narrowed it down to the two that sounded the most interesting.
It’s not every day that you order a dessert called Nemesis (NIS 31).
The level of chocolatey debauchery going on with this dessert was out of control. As if the main body of the dessert wasn’t excellent enough, the sauce that went with it was on another level.
It’s not that the tiramisu (NIS 31) wasn’t good, but it just didn’t match up to the Nemesis. That’s not to say that it wasn’t also of a very high standard. There was just the right amount of coffee flavor, and the mascarpone topping was excellent, but it just didn’t have the wow factor of its chocolatey companion.
The famous address of 99 Dizengoff has seen its fair share of different restaurants over the years. At its central location, residents have seen the different reincarnations come and go as quickly as fashion trends change in the city that never sleeps. With its rich and varied menu, homey and welcoming ambience, as well as a hard-working chef, it looks as if Piazza is here to stay.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Piazza Not kosher 99 Dizengoff, Tel Aviv (03) 527-4488