Brothers Ronen and Roget Khlief had a dream – to bring quality and tasty Italian food to their fellow residents of Nazareth bred on more traditional Middle Eastern staples.
They opened Ronen Italian Kitchen in downtown Nazareth over six years ago as a pizza joint and have slowly transitioned it into a friendly, appealing chef’s restaurant with a wide and varied menu.
Ronen, the younger brother, studied cooking in Napoli and scoured the Italian countryside for the tastiest Parmesan, dried tomatoes, rice and pasta for his creations. He shipped a container back home earlier this year. According to Roget, who manages the restaurant, the dishes on the menu are a fusion of ingredients from Italy and local spices and dairy products.
“It’s taken a little time to spread the word about us, but little by little, we’re showing the people of Nazareth that Italian food is more than pizza and pasta,” said Roget, a gracious host in the light and airy restaurant.
“Ninety percent of our clientele are locals, but in the last couple of years, more Israelis from outside Nazareth are coming as well as tourists from abroad, thanks to great reviews on Trip Advisor.”
An early dinner on a balmy evening during Ramadan last month confirmed that those reviews were warranted.
The menu is chock full of reasonably priced, huge-portion items.
Starters included a wide range of bruschetta and focaccia topped with everything from artichokes and broccoli to shrimp.
We chose Funghi (NIS 29), an ample supply of huge Portobello mushrooms stuffed with a mixture of cheese and herbs and topped with a panko crust. It was delicious.
There was also a variety of appealing-sounding salads including Ronen Salad (NIS 35/55), which offers sautéed chicken strips over a bed of vegetables spiced with lemon and pesto.
Choosing a main course proved difficult. Among the several dozen pasta, pizza and calzone dishes were items like Bolognese Lasagna (NIS 65) prepared with mozzarella, and beef tortellini (NIS 60).
We chose the mushroom risotto (NIS 55) which was a sublime combination of expertly cooked rice, mushrooms, truffles, red wine, Parmesan and cream. It was incredibly filling but I did not stop until there was nothing left. Just great.
My companion chose the sweet potato ravioli in a cream pesto sauce (NIS 58). The raviolis were as unbelievably light as they were tasty.
Ronen certainly learned well in Napoli.
There was also a great selection of Italian and Spanish wines, and an attractive dessert lineup, but we were too stuffed to partake.
The next time you are in Nazareth, forgo the falafel and head straight to Ronen Italian Kitchen. It will not cost an arm and a leg, and it will make the visit so much more enjoyable.
Ronen Italian Kitchen
Hagalil 21, Nazareth
Open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Sundays, opens at noon.