Drop in for a bite

Shuki Shukrun bought Al Dente from the previous owners and now works with four cooks.

Shuki Skakrun 521 (photo credit: Barry A. Kaplan)
Shuki Skakrun 521
(photo credit: Barry A. Kaplan)
Shuki Shukrun has been both chef and owner of Al Dente for the past two years. He has a nice, gentle personality and not only is he very articulate, but it is obvious he is very proud of having created a high-quality restaurant and is very concerned and attentive to the needs of his patrons.
How it started Born in Dimona to Moroccan parents, the single young man grew up on Moroccan food. “My mother was a very good cook. She was my main influence.”
After high school, Shukrun started to do modern dance, working with choreographers. To make a living, he worked as a cook part-time in several restaurants, and about 10 years ago he started to cook for his friends.
Experience Al Dente had operated as a restaurant under several owners since around 1998. Shukrun came to work there in 2005. First, he was in charge of evening shifts; then he started working with soups.
“Then I started to cook part of the menu, and I went to the next level to manager of the kitchen. I discovered I’m good at Italian food,” he says.
“This was a big discovery for me – you don’t have to be Italian to be a good Italian cook! You have to understand the soul of the kitchen and how to work with simple ingredients.”
In March 2009, he learned that the owner wanted to sell Al Dente. “I always had a dream to have a place of my own, and I always thought this place had great potential.”
So Shukrun bought the restaurant, and now he works with four cooks.
The decor Al Dente is a wood frame building with a glassed-in porch with stone walls, seating 14, usable year-round and heated in winter.
Inside, the walls are painted cream color, with a serving bar at the back and a see-through area open to the kitchen. There are blond wood tables and chairs, seating 20, and basket-weave place mats.
The dishes are handmade by a special ceramist. The walls are adorned with the artwork of a different artist every two months.
“I wanted to design a place a bit elegant and modern,” explains Shukrun. “I wanted to create a different place in Jerusalem – intimate yet a family place where people would love to come to because it had a special atmosphere.”
The menu
Al Dente offers appetizers such as antipasti, bruschetta, focaccia and soups; three kinds of pizza; seven salads; 16 sauces and types of pasta; 11 specials including ravioli, gnocchi and rotelle; two types of calzone; five fish entrees with salad and potatoes or a side dish; eight desserts; cold and hot beverages, beer and an impressive separate wine menu of all Israeli wines. The tortellini, gnocchi and rotelle are all homemade.
“My vision is to give the range from simple food to very complicated and sophisticated dishes,” says Shukrun.
Al Dente also offers business lunches from 12 to 5 p.m. at NIS 50, NIS 60 and NIS 65.
Most popular dish on the menu
For this tough question, Shukrun consults with his restaurant manager, Anat Hurwitz, before they decide it is a three-way tie between mushroom pappardelle, porcini pappardelle and truffle tortellini.
Favorite item on the menu
“Porcini pappardelle.”
Biggest cooking failure
“That is hard because I really check myself very carefully.
I try to be precise. Some of the dishes here were not precise before and I got feedback from clients, so I adjusted the flavors.”
Biggest accomplishment
“To give a special experience to the people.”
Best part of the job
“To see people really enjoying the food and satisfied.”
Who cooks at home?
“I practically live here during the week, so I don’t cook at home. On the weekends, I cook for friends.”
Al Dente is located at Rehov Ussishkin 20, tel. 625-1479. Open Sunday through Thursday, 12 noon to 11 p.m., closed Friday, Saturday and Saturday evening. Kosher, Jerusalem Rabbinate.