Light at the end of the culinary tunnel

As restaurants make plans to reopen, many are enjoying increased take-away business.

THE ASSAF Granit Collection by Domino’s (photo credit: DAN PERETZ)
THE ASSAF Granit Collection by Domino’s
(photo credit: DAN PERETZ)
The country has been rushing headlong into the new normal of relaxed lockdown restrictions, leaving restaurants behind but chomping at the bit. Some are seeing business beginning to pick up a bit as more customers are venturing out to bring home take-away orders. Most, however, are simply starting to get their kitchens and dining areas ready for expected reopening to seated customers, said to be slated for mid-June, even as restaurateurs lobby for moving that eventuality up to the end of this month.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, in particular, has been pushing hard for getting his city’s restaurants open as soon as possible, even before the end of May (Huldai enjoys the apparent backing of the Finance Ministry, while the Health Ministry remains opposed).
In order to make sure there is more room for social distancing in the restaurants, the city is planning to relax regulations governing placement of tables on sidewalks, thus not only increasing the amount of space available to seat customers, but also reducing risk of contagion. Studies have shown that contagion is more rampant when people are together in enclosed spaces, as opposed to outdoors where air is circulating freely.  
Already in anticipation of impending Health Ministry requirements, proprietors are stocking up on alcogel that can be placed on every table for hand-sanitizing, and preparing to swap their heavier, bound menus for disposable menus du jour. One inspired owner has decided to place plants on every other bar stool, as a pleasant reminder that social distancing is in effect.
Meanwhile, there are still excellent restaurant meals that can be ordered to enjoy at home. Enzo Fornari of Rome, whose family restaurant Osteria da Fiorello was one of the most authentic Italian eateries in Tel Aviv, has continued the tradition with his interpretation of street food, while celebrity chef Assaf Granit, who has been conquering the culinary scenes of London and Paris, has joined forces with the ubiquitous Domino’s chain to popularize gourmet pizza. And both are kosher – the latter, of course, within the bounds of obvious restrictions.
Bocca Bocca
This unassuming place in the heart of Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market is turning out some of the tastiest treats of any ethnic cuisine in the city. The cornerstone of the menu is stuffed focaccias, but there are also platters without the fluffy bread, a basic pizza, crunchy arancini, classic spaghetti and desserts.
The delivery/take-away menu, in Hebrew only, comprises three sections: Boccas – stuffed or open-face foccacias – with a side salad and soft drink (NIS 44-79); Platters – main course plus two side dishes, plus a side salad and soft drink (NIS 48-60); Spaghetti, with a soft drink (NIS 44-48); and Desserts (three, NIS 20 each). The house arancini – fried balls of rice with cheese, plus dips – is in a category all by itself (NIS 20), while the limited selection of alcoholic drinks features wine, beer and homemade limoncello.
Recommended dishes representing each category include: Roast Beef focaccia with savory green sauce, Chicken foccacia (prepared with mushrooms and white wine), Vegan platter (consisting of stewed mushrooms, peperonata and vegetarian meatballs), Spaghetti Bolognese, and the Coconut-caramel panna cotta (both chocolate desserts are also excellent). 
Delivery service, which operates weekdays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., costs a nominal NIS 10 (with a minimum food order of NIS 60). The delivery zone covers all of Tel Aviv, plus Ramat Hasharon-Herzliya.
Bocca Bocca
Yihye Kapah St. 2, Tel Aviv
Phone: 052-391-3233. 
Delivery menu:
The Assaf Granit Collection by Domino’s
I know I promised not to review huge chains like Domino’s, but the company’s Assaf Granit collection is in a league of its own. To the chain’s credit, it succeeded not only in recruiting a talented international chef to create an assortment of gourmet pizzas, but also in turning out on a grand scale a line of pizzas that is as good as any competitor’s in the country – and better than most.
Moreover, even though Domino’s in Israel is predominantly not kosher, one of the three varieties of Granit’s pizzas – the vegetarian one, called Four Frying Pans – is available also in the chain’s kosher outlets in Petah Tikva.
Granit’s collection comprises three versions, two of which – the Ya Salami and Bakarena – feature meat. They also look different from the regular pizzas: they are rectangular, with sauce and toppings from end to end (no raised edges); each one is cut into six slices. All are priced at NIS 71.90 each.
There are also other worthy additions to the Domino’s menu: “cheesy crust” pizzas, PizzaPro, and New York pizza. Inexplicably, you won’t find descriptions of any of these pizzas on the online menu – which is in Hebrew only (although with helpful illustrations) – but the PizzaPro, with a spelt crust plus extra mozzarella and ricotta cheese, contains more protein than your average pizza, while the New York comes in extra-large slices, with an intriguing blend of Kashkaval, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and one free topping. There are also vegan options, and the gluten-free spelt crust is a widespread option as well.
Finally, there is a limited selection of non-pizza items and an expanded dessert menu, including more than a dozen varieties of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (even vegan flavors). Beverages are exclusively soft drinks, some available in family sizes only.
Recommended menu choices are the Assaf Granit Bakarena pizza (with smoked beef, baby mozzarella, Parmesan Grana Padano and olive-oil enriched tomato sauce); the cheesy crust pizza stuffed with mozzarella seasoned with pesto; the Greek calzone, filled with tomato sauce, mozzarella, Bulgarian cheese, onion and black olives); and a combination dessert: one of three warm sweets paired with a container of ice cream.
(Note: The online menu can be a little frustrating to navigate; you will probably have to fill in your address and time of delivery/pick-up in order to access most of the web pages.)
Non-kosher branches nationwide, kosher outlets in Petah Tikva.
Phone: 1-700-70-70-70
Online menu:
The writer was a guest of the restaurants.