A good, square meal

The ravioli at Jerusalem’s pasta joints is served in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but the traditional flavor comes through.

Laboritorio Di Pasta 521 (photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
Laboritorio Di Pasta 521
(photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
At times it seems like there are more pasta and pizza places in Jerusalem than there are felafel joints. Indeed, while Italian Jews make up a relatively small percentage of the Israeli population, the country’s cuisine has certainly become a mainstay.
Pasta is always a popular choice, and I set out to sample one of my favorites – cheese ravioli – at a variety of restaurants and eateries around Jerusalem.
While practically every cafe in the capital serves pasta and most of them ravioli, to narrow things down I tried to focus on those that either served only pasta or were well-known for their Italian cuisine. I made sure to sample the gamut: from the cheap, fast food places to the pricey, sit-down establishments.
The ravioli were judged on texture of both the pasta and the filling, quantity and flavor of filling, and, of course, quality of the sauce. Bonus points were given to those with a lot of varieties and offerings.
All tested establishments are kosher.
This little storefront in the center of town is quite like it sounds, a pasta laboratory.
Start by picking your noodles: a variety of different shapes plus ravioli with cheese; mushroom; sweet potato; or ricotta and spinach fillings. Then select one of 10 sauces: from the classic tomato to coconut curry with peas and peanuts. Finish with a variety of toppings, and your meal is complete. While I haven’t tried every combination, the cheese ravioli had a very generous, rich and creamy filling with a strong cheesy flavor. The pasta was cooked to al dente perfection. Because of the creaminess of the ravioli center, a tomato- or olive oil-based sauce is probably the best pairing.
NIS 35 to NIS 39 8 Hillel Street
The most expensive stop on my ravioli travels, Luciana was definitely delicious, but it wasn’t perfect. Most of the pasta was perfectly cooked, but some were a bit more well done than others. The flower shape was cute and the ravioli were a good size, with a generous filling that had a strong cheese flavor without being overwhelming. The sauce was creamy and flavorful and a good complement to the pasta.
In addition to the cheese ravioli, Luciana offers spinach and ricotta or sweet potato, plus beet and sheep cheese tortellini.
NIS 65 to 69 37 Emek Refaim Street and Mamilla Mall
Inside the Mamilla shopping center is this cute Italian restaurant, with gorgeous views on its outside eating plaza. Not to be confused with Spaghettim, an eatery in the center of town that is not kosher, Spaghettis offers food of all types – but with a focus, of course, on pasta.
Its ravioli came with a nice, complexly flavored rosa sauce, and well-cooked pasta dough. The filling was not particularly generous and it had only a mild cheese flavor, but a nice texture.
Other sauce options are cream or pesto.
NIS 55 Mamilla Mall
Luigi feels most like what I imagine a classic Italian family eatery to be like: lazy service, about a million sauce options and quaint, outdated design. The pasta was nicely cooked with plenty of filling, but the cheese had very little flavor.
It was listed on the menu as goat cheese ravioli, but it certainly lacked the expected creaminess of goat cheese.
The tomato-cream sauce we chose was excellent, but we’ll have to go back to sample the 16 (OK, not a million) other options.
NIS 46 to NIS 58 35 S.Y. Agnon Street and 10 Yoel Salomon Street
You’ve probably walked past this little storefront 100 times without even noticing it’s there.
In a square known more for its plethora of bars than its restaurants sits Pasta Bar, a French-run Italian joint that offers pastas, paninis, salads and quiche. You can pick from pesto, cream sauce or tomato sauce for your ravioli (or other pasta on the menu).
The cheese ravioli had a fairly generous filling, but didn’t have a very distinct cheese flavor. The pasta was well-cooked, and it was a nice-sized portion of food for a good price.
NIS 28 4 Yosef Rivlin Street
As far as I can tell, Pasta Bar in the bus station is no relation to the store in town. In fact, until recently it was named Home Pizza – and the change brought no real switch in the menu. This place sells mushroom, cheese and sweet potato ravioli (actually the mushroom is tortellini shaped, but I don’t want to burst their bubble). Once you pick your pasta, you can pick a sauce – cream or tomato, or if you ask nicely, a combination of the two – and the additions of onion, garlic, mushrooms or basil. Sauteing those ingredients together first before adding the sauce and then the pasta adds a nice fresh touch to the sauce, but unfortunately it can’t improve the ravioli. They’re very small in size, leading to the undercooked pasta overwhelming the filling, though with no real cheese flavor and a texture almost like mashed potato, that’s no big loss.
NIS 30 Food court, Central Bus Station
Next month I’m returning to a Tried and Tested favorite: doughnuts!
Do you have a Jerusalem favorite, or can’t believe I’ve missed the best spot for sufganiyot in the capital for the past two years? Email triedandtastedjpost@gmail.com with any suggestions.