Benvenuto, Don Camillo

The restaurant in The Jaffa Hotel is a welcome addition to the local culinary scene.

Don Camillo (photo credit: DAN PERETZ)
Don Camillo
(photo credit: DAN PERETZ)
The Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel, is brand-new property near the port of Jaffa, but it already has had a long pre-history. Originally branded and announced as Tel Aviv’s first W Hotel, its long-delayed debut finally took place this summer, after years spent transforming a mid-19th century French hospital into a modern hotel. The result is impressive: the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Don Camillo, is housed in a stunning courtyard that is one of the most romantic venues in the city by candlelight.
The indoor seating area, meanwhile, with its vaulted ceilings, is attractive in its own right, and its leather upholstered chairs quite comfortable. If you do decide to sit al fresco, it is advisable to request a cushion for the rustic wooden chairs.
Don Camillo – whose cuisine is described as New York-style Italian – may have opened its doors only a few months ago, but clearly it has already been discovered. It was midweek when we visited, yet the restaurant was full, and the crowd was about half tourists and half locals.
The candlelight may have indeed been romantic, but it was not quite enough to read the menu by. In most places, a request for more light falls on deaf ears; here, to the restaurant’s credit, the waiter brought a portable lamp for the table right away.
While Don Camillo serves no specialty cocktails, the alcohol menu lists a number of the classics. The international wine list, meanwhile, is extensive – with some exclusive vintages commanding four figures. The selection of wines available by the glass, on the other hand, is rather limited.
The food menu comprises no fewer than seven sections: Crudi (NIS 66 to NIS 72), Antipasti (NIS 52 to NIS 96), Insalati (NIS 48 to NIS 56), Pasta (NIS 58 to NIS 88), Pesci/Fish (NIS 122 to NIS 210), Carni/Meat (NIS 96 to NIS 156), and Contorni (NIS 28 to NIS 38). Two of the meat and fish dishes are priced by weight.
The menu notwithstanding, a meal at Don Camillo starts with a complimentary bread basket containing focaccia, sourdough bread and grissini, along with a serving of Hame’iri cheese plus pickled vegetables and olives. The breadsticks were practically addictive, and the wait staff was happy to bring more.
Our choice from the first category of three faw fish and two uncooked meat dishes was the Tonno Calabrese, slices of ruby red tuna surrounding a tiny dollop of eggplant cream. The extremely fresh and flavorful fish was enhanced by a sauce with faintly sweet overtones, accented with the barest hint of chili.
Our Antipasto selection was the Polpetti Pomodoro, lamb meatballs served atop a bed of slightly spicy tomato sauce and under a scant dusting of pecorino cheese. The result was like a hybrid of the Middle East and Italy: kebabs in Bolognese sauce.
When it came time for the pasta course, our waiter recommended the Mezzaluna Neri – handmade black half-moon ravioli stuffed with shrimp and drenched in a sauce studded with chopped shrimp. The nature of the sauce was not specified in the menu, but it turned out to be an exquisite cream sauce seasoned with vermouth, tarragon and shallots.
After sharing one of each of the first three courses, we were ready to order two separate main courses. We chose the one seafood dish in the fish category – a mélange of fresh shrimp, calamari and mussels that were still briny from the sea. The medley was swimming in a stock of tomatoes and herbs that was so delectable my companion asked for a spoon and finished it like it was soup.
The meat category features tempting lamb, chicken and beef options, from which we selected the rib-eye with Tuscan seasoning. The succulent steak, grilled to a perfect medium, was served sliced off-thebone with half a bulb of roasted garlic, and was worthy of a fine steakhouse.
Our two side dishes (Contorni) were the asparagus and the mushrooms. The former consisted of six splendid stalks of grilled al dente asparagus, while the latter was a generous plate of garlicky assorted mushrooms. The Don Camillo menu as a whole is a bit challenging for vegetarians, but I dare say that these two amazing dishes, along with a salad and a carefully chosen pasta, could constitute a satisfying meal for any vegetarian.
Finally, there is a separate dessert menu itemizing six choices (NIS 44 to NIS 54). Our waiter did not hesitate to recommend the cheesecake with Jaffa orange and graham crust, while the manager insisted we try the Banana-Coconut Fantasia – a banana split with three scoops of vanilla ice cream and toppings of toffee syrup, pineapple and coconut chips that were spooned out ceremoniously at the table. This sweet extravaganza tasted as deliciously decadent as it looked.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Don Camilo at The Jaffa Hotel
Not kosher
Yefet St. 36, Jaffa
Tel. (03) 504-2000