When in Tel Aviv

Homemade doughs - and pasta - are just the tip of the delicious iceberg at Tel Aviv's Hapizza.

I used to live around the corner from Hapizza. My roommates at the time told me the place was good but, like so many things in life, I just didn't get around to it. When I moved from around the corner, I should admit, I didn't go very far. Just down the street actually. So I'd still pass the place frequently. There was something about Hapizza that gave me the distinct impression that my roommates were right. One night, circumstance and fate collided. Out with my lady friend, on the corner of Pinsker and Bograshov opposite Hapizza, both of us hungry, right around dinner time and some cash in our wallets, we figured, "What the hell," and took that first step of faith to cross the street. The two of us split the mista salad (gardern salad - NIS 41), a pizza (anchovy and hot peppers - NIS 38) and the pappardelle pasta (homemade with artichoke sauce - NIS 40). We stuffed ourselves and left, excited about the prospect to return. Then my mom came. And while it's easy to show off your city's culinary culture by taking the woman who spawned you to some of the choicest spots in town, well, it's the awesome everyday places that can be most impressing when you're trying to show her a good time. Mom, lady friend and I set out for Hapizza, the former taking note of the skip in the latters' steps. We all had the impression that another one of the too few 10 nights that my mom would be around was going to be enjoyable. Once again we sat at an outdoor table. Situated at the corner of two fairly if not decidedly busy streets, Hapizza does an excellent job of concealing its uber-urban location. It is amazing what a few well-placed-planters can do. I tasked my mom with ordering the pizza. She took the cheeseless aglio olio with olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, parsley and Parmesan (NIS 40). I like the sauce - tomato that is - but even in its absence there was nothing to complain about. Hapizza's menu proudly states, "We do not add to pizza dough nor to our tomato sauce any fats, sugar, preservatives or any other weird stuff... enjoy it!" It's the "preservatives" and "other weird stuff" that concerns me most. But quality and attention to detail combined with cooks who expertly exploit the gas burning brick oven, make for a glorious outcome. Beautiful lady friend made the beautiful decision to order the homemade ravioli filled with potato, leek and eggplant (NIS 46) - fresh, perky and a wonderful smokey flavor. Alongside it all, we took the Greek salad, served with the house focaccia, also baked in the brick oven (NIS 41). Again, the veggies were of impressive quality giving their simple mix and spectacular depth. Our beverages consisted of a glass of the house white, an Orvieto. Though, should you want something red, a chianti is available for the same price (NIS 80/23). We also imbibed, with wild abandon, the house water, otherwise known as tap. It is most cutely served in Grolsch-style bottles courtesy of Ikea. Well, there's got to be an application for everything. Food aside, there is another point to be made about Hapizza: should you dine there, be prepared to fall in love with the waitresses. Actually, the whole staff. The guys sliding dough in and out of the brick oven are just as adorably lovely. And we finished with a short espresso, nicely pulled. Well, my mom didn't. They had run out of decaf and it was too late for regular. Hapizza - 51 Rehov Bograshov, Tel Aviv; (03) 528-1077 - is open Sun.-Thurs. From noon to midnight, Fri. from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sat. from 6 p.m. to midnight; kosher. The writer was a guest of the restaurant (the second time he ate there).