La Lasagna: A little bit of Italy in the heart of Tel Aviv - review

In the restaurant business, surviving for 20 years is an eternity. At La Lasagna, Yosef Tammam is doing something right.

 La Lasagna (photo credit: YOSEF TAMMAM)
La Lasagna
(photo credit: YOSEF TAMMAM)

Almost 20 years ago, Yosef Tammam decided he needed a change. He and his wife were working in the fashion industry when she died. He had always liked to cook and had grown up in Tripoli, speaking Italian and eating Italian food.

So he opened La Lasagna on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, and the rest is history. In the restaurant business, surviving for 20 years is an eternity. At La Lasagna he’s doing something right.

At 73, Tammam, wearing a green bandanna, is still cooking every day, and it’s clear that he loves what he does. The place is small – half a dozen tables outside on Dizengoff Street and five more tables crammed inside. The tables were full on a Wednesday night, and it seemed like many of the patrons were regulars. We sat outside and enjoyed people watching as we ate.

What's on the menu?

A sign in the window offered a new appetizer – Frito Misto (NIS 99), which Tammam insisted we try. It was a huge platter of fried zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, potato croquettes with mushrooms, halloumi-style cheese and mozzarella. In the one false note of the evening, it was served with a sauce of sweet chili sauce, but when I asked for marinara sauce, Yosef happily brought it to me. The small pieces of fried mozzarella dipped in marinara were especially delicious and reminded me of tiny fried mozzarella sticks.

This dish is easily enough for a full meal for two people or for a group to share as an appetizer.

 La Lasagna (credit: YOSEF TAMMAM) La Lasagna (credit: YOSEF TAMMAM)

“I don’t want to eat too much fried food,” I told my husband, Cliff.

“Me neither, but I can’t stop myself,” he said.

Eventually, we overcame our yetzer hara and pushed the platter away.

Yosef then brought us a mushroom lasagna to share. He makes the lasagna noodles as well as the sourdough pizza dough from scratch, and it shows. The lasagna (NIS 79) was a large portion with homemade béchamel sauce, marinara sauce, fresh mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. Three days later I’m still thinking about how good it was.

The table next to us ordered pizza, which came with a thin crust, and looked absolutely delicious. The menu is huge, by the way, with dozens of types of pizza, pasta, ravioli, gnocchi and lasagna. Almost everything is homemade.

But that’s not all. There is an entire separate gluten-free menu of many of the same dishes of pizza and pasta, cooked separately from any dishes with gluten. Yosef says that many years ago one of his regular customers, a tourist from Norway, brought him some gluten-free pasta and asked him to make it for her daughter. He used a separate pot and soon realized that there was a need for gluten-free dishes. He says everything is kept completely separate from dishes with gluten. I didn’t try any of the gluten-free dishes, but it’s a great option for anyone with celiac or gluten sensitivity.

I asked Yosef if the desserts are made in-house, and thankfully (at least for my waistline) he said no, and that he buys them from Biscotti, a catering company that supplies desserts to many restaurants around Israel. I’ve had Biscotti desserts, and they are quite good but not worth the calories.

I couldn’t say no to a chaser of homemade limoncello, which was actually the perfect dessert.

La Lasagna177 DizengoffHours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.Kashrut: Mehadrin, Tel Aviv Rabbinate

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.