Bar Italia - A worthy suburban sister

Bar Italia in Netanya mirrors the excellence of its Tel Aviv sibling

Bar Italia, Netanya (photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
Bar Italia, Netanya
(photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
These pandemic days might seem like a strange time to open a new restaurant, but apparently it helps if you already own and operate one successful restaurant that proves you have a winning concept. The owner-chef team in charge of Pomo (see Billboard review of March 22, 2019), a popular upscale Italian restaurant in Ramat Hahayal, recently launched Bar Italia, a sister trattoria located in a posh seaside boutique hotel in Netanya.
Immediately upon entering the premises, the similarity in the decor – modern and handsome – of the sister restaurants is evident. The main difference in appearance is that Bar Italia (perhaps with a nod to its name) is more dimly lit. Thankfully, at least, the background music is not intrusive, although the air conditioning was cranked way too high (bring a jacket if you come early, before the place fills up).
Even more striking than the interior design, however, was what was missing: Even though there is plenty of room on the outdoor patio in front of the restaurant, there is no al fresco seating area.
This is particularly lamentable, for two reasons: There is no sea view from most of the inside, and many people prefer to sit outside while there is a possibility of a circulating virus.
Inside, meanwhile, the tables do appear to be adhering to the required 1.5-meter spacing minimum (barely). Fortunately, the comfortable leather chairs and suede banquettes are nice and inviting.
The specialty cocktails here share pride of place on the main menu, available in Hebrew and English. The list is relatively long – 10 house cocktails (NIS 39-54) – each one reflecting creative talent behind the mixology. We enjoyed the Cesar, a blend of tequila, watermelon liqueur, strawberry syrup, cardamom syrup, mango nectar and lemon juice that yields a sweet, yet refreshing drink which nonetheless packs a bit of a punch.
There is an adequate international wine list with quite a few wines available by the glass. There are also decent selections of bottled and draft imported and domestic beers, as well as mineral waters and soft drinks.
The bilingual food menu is rather extensive for one very large disposable page. The five food menu sections are: Starters (NIS 49-64), Salads (NIS 49-62), Pastas (NIS 64-99), Pizzas (NIS 53-74), and Main courses (NIS 68-159). There is a reasonable number of vegetarian (and fewer vegan) options. Pizzas are made in a huge wood-burning oven. Seafood makes an appearance in several categories – although not among the main dishes – but there is no pork anywhere.
AS WE SIPPED our cocktails, we munched on the warm, nicely herbed house focaccia (NIS 23), which was served with excellent tomato salsa.
Our two appetizers – actually, one starter and one salad – arrived at the same time. La Primavera was a colorful salad of endive, Salanova lettuce, beets, bouchet cheese and toasted pistachios, dressed with a fig vinaigrette. Although there were many tempting starters on the menu, we selected the rotating daily special: red tuna sashimi on fresh figs, with dabs of mascarpone cream and a sprinkling of pine nuts, all swimming in quality olive oil and fig vinegar. Both dishes were outstanding.
Our pasta dish took a very long time to get to our table, but ultimately is was worth the wait: The Frutti di Mare comprised chunks of fresh, torn pasta tossed with a rather meager assortment of shrimps, calamari and mussels, drenched in an extraordinarily rich and tasty sauce of garlic, roasted tomatoes, green peas and a crab reduction. We could not resist mopping up every last drop with the remains of our focaccia.
We asked for our main dishes to be served separately, starting with the Salmon Fillet, accompanied by green vegetables cooked with olive oil lemon. The beautifully grilled fillet of fish was juicy and delicious.
This was followed by the beef filet, served with gnocchi and mushrooms. Although we had requested the steak grilled medium, it came medium-rare. Still, it turned out fine, as the lean meat, slightly moistened with an understated demi-glace, was still positively succulent.
The potato gnocchi, meanwhile, were practically perfect: slightly crispy on the inside, yet light and fluffy on the inside. The shimeji mushrooms were also the ideal companion.
After all this great food, we only had room for one dessert from the Hebrew-only menu. From the tantalizing list of familiar desserts with interesting twists (NIS 34-51), we settled on the Chocolate Sphere – bittersweet mousse, vanilla financier, caramelized hazelnuts and arabesque phyllo (resembling a cocoa tuile). This creation by the restaurant’s dedicated pastry chef was absolutely decadent.
Throughout the meal, the professional service was extremely attentive: The staff cleared and cleaned the table between courses and offered wet wipes from a pre-torn wrapping. Our waitress even noticed that our cocktail had become watery after the ice had melted, prompting her to suggest a refill.
Unlike Pomo, Bar Italia is currently open for dinner only, except for weekends (Fridays and Saturdays), when there is also lunch service.
Bar Italia
Not kosher
West Lagoon Hotel, Sderot Oved Ben Ami 113, Netanya
Phone: 09-742-1113
Sun-Thur: 5 p.m.-midnight; Fri & Sat: noon-midnight
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.