Bella Bellini

One of Tel Aviv’s favorite Italian restaurants is celebrating its sweet 16 with a mouth-watering winter menu

Cake 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cake 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Located in the Suzanne Dellal Center in Neveh Tzedek, one of Tel Aviv’s most picturesque neighborhoods, the Bellini restaurant is celebrating its 16th anniversary.
The outside seating – a spacious balcony – allows diners to observe the lovely Suzanne Dellal plaza.
Inside, the spacious dining area has rustic rural faux-Italian design, checkered tablecloths, ochercolored walls and large wooden tables. The motto of the place is “Bellini is more than a restaurant – it is a home…an Italian country home with a warm family atmosphere.”
Well, our host for the evening, the sweet Yaeli, certainly made us feel at home. And I fear that, like some guests, we may have overstayed our welcome. We simply didn’t feel like leaving this warm and happy place.
Sitting inside allows the diners to see the open kitchen and the busy cooks, headed by a surprisingly young and very talented chef preparing the food in what appeared to be a well-planned kitchen.
Bellini features a selection of antipasti and classical Italian starters and main dishes such as pasta, fish, meat and seafood. Its wine list has a good selection of Italian wines, well-known Israeli wines and a choice of boutique wines.
But since there is a special sweet 16 menu compiled from favorite dishes served throughout the 16 years, we accepted Yaeli’s suggestion to stick to that for the evening.
We were first served a complimentary Bellini cocktail, a mixture of sparkling wine and peach purée, and the local version of focaccia, which was served with a dish of very good olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. We were warned not to eat too much of it, but it was hard to stop.
A selection of starters followed, with Italian hits such as Caprese salad – layers of tomatoes, excellent Mozzarella cheese with basil and olive oil (NIS 44) – and excellent risotto with entrecote cubes and mushrooms (NIS 48) that was slightly sweet and very tasty. For me, that dish alone warrants a return visit.
Yaeli promised that the house wine was good. We accepted and were presented with got a really tasty Primitivo Zinfandel (NIS 84) without a label. The wine was poured into plain glasses as it often is in Italy. The idea is to give the impression that we really were in rural Italy and there was a winery in the backyard. Well, it was better than the wine you get in most rural backyard wineries in Italy.
We also had a plate of grilled Portobello mushrooms in Marsala wine with prosciutto bread (NIS 48). This dish was first invented here for the New Year’s Eve dinner in 2006 and became such a hit with the regulars that it is now served as part of the winter menu. The Portobello was meaty and the sauce a little too sweet for me, but the bread was amazing.
It was cold outside, and I was hoping for osso bucco, or lamb stew. Thankfully, they had it on the menu. This is a traditional north Italian dish that has many different recipes. Here it was cooked to perfection with white wine and served on the bone with potatoes and carrots, which had been cooked with the meat. (NIS 94). It was undoubtedly the best dish of the evening. We also had a fillet of fish seared with garlic butter, anchovies, fish broth and white wine. It is one of Bellini’s favorite dishes since 2003, served with a small plate of pasta and a green salad (NIS 98).
We were full, but Yaeli said we had to taste the desserts, so we asked for a break. Meanwhile, we were served shots of the Italian aperitif Sambuca, which was brought to the table burning with blue flame and coffee beans – as it should be. The liquor helped, and we were ready for the desserts. We chose two from the sweet 16 menu – the Stefanie cake with white chocolate, sugared pecans and Belgian chocolate icing (NIS 34), a very good cake; one you’d expect to get in a high-end café in Rome; and the traditional tiramisu (NIS 26), which was served in a bowl and was very good.
Bellini offers a business lunch menu with two dishes (a starter or dessert and an entrée), together with a generous antipasti buffet for the price of the main dish.
We were sorry to leave the merry crowd that filled the place. Bellini is popular for good reason – it serves very good Italian food in an authentic rural Italian-style setting, with gracious and friendly service.
Whenever you plan to go, make sure to reserve a table in advance.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Not kosher Bellini, 6 Yechieli St. Suzanne Dellal Center, Neveh Tzedek, Tel Aviv, (03) 517-8486 Open daily from noon to midnight. Average price per diner NIS 130-180. Business lunch served Sun-Fri from noon to 5 p.m.