Warm and worthwhile

Bellini celebrates its Bar Mitzvah... If it's lasted for 13 years, it must be doing something right.

bellini restaurant (photo credit: )
bellini restaurant
(photo credit: )
Why shouldn't a restaurant celebrate its Bar Mitzvah? If it's lasted for 13 years, it must be doing something right. That's certainly true for the Bellini restaurant in Tel Aviv's picturesque Neve Tzedek neighborhood. Deciding to leave the cold of Jerusalem behind one recent winter eve, we were delighted to enter the warmth of this family-owned restaurant at the Suzanne Dellal Center plaza. The red and white checkered tablecloths give it an authentic Italian look, and the surprise of a burning log fire and open kitchen made us feel that the drive was well worth it. The building used to be the refectory of the main school building, which was renovated in 1989 and is now the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater. In fact, owner/manager Ronen Arditi's mother used to eat her school dinners there as a child. Before dining, take time to visit the surrounding area. Walk along the quaint streets of Neve Tzedek now bustling with cafes, boutiques, handicraft shops and more. Enter the beautifully renovated center, whose square is dotted with citrus trees where children play almost all year round. You can see a dance performance in one of the four different halls or simply walk around soaking up the atmosphere. Bellini, situated right on the square, has something for everyone. In the summer you can sit on the open-air patio, still enjoying the scene and have breakfast, lunch, which includes an open antipasti buffet, or dinner. The restaurant is family oriented and has pasta dishes for two or three people sharing. Upon entry, we were immediately served an aperitif of bruschetta and wine with the new Cherry Cinzano. Called a Cherry Kir, it was cold and tart and welcoming. We were told this was a promotional gesture, and realized we were lucky to have hit the right night. A new winter celebration menu has been lovingly prepared by chef Roi Hanin who studied at the Tadmor school. Hanin has been Bellini's chef for a good many years, and we decided to sample some of his new offerings. We started with an excellent entrecote risotto, whose rice was cooked as it should be in this quintessential Italian dish - soft but not mushy - and the thin slices of entrecote were nicely tender. As for the shrimp ravioli, the pasta was perfectly cooked, the filling was rich, but the alcohol overpowered the taste of the delicate shrimp. The piece de resistance was portobello mushrooms in marsala wine. The mushrooms were tender yet still firm, and the wine sauce was so good that everyone used the crusty toasted bread that came with it to dip up what remained on the plate. We decided on three different main courses and were not disappointed. A generous serving of osso bucco with meat falling off the bone was served on a bed of root vegetables and was a hit among our group. My favorite however, was the burned chicken livers on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes. Another good choice was the grilled lamb chops, served with grilled vegetables and potatoes. The chops were tender and plentiful. Bellini's regular menu is always available and is comprised of pasta, meat, fish, pizza baked over an open fire and much more. For a coffee or snack to a full meal in a wonderful atmosphere, Bellini is worth a visit. Prices are fair: first courses from NIS 32 to 42, pasta dishes from NIS 34 to NIS 114; main courses from NIS 79 to 94, desserts NIS 34. Bellini, 6 Yeheli, Suzanne Dellal Center, Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv. Tel 03 517 8486. Not kosher