With a number of Italian restaurants opening and closing in Tel Aviv, it is reassuring that the Rustico chain has remained consistent in the high quality of its food and service. It was on a warm Thursday evening that we headed out to the Basel St. branch (there is also one on Rothschild Blvd. and Sarona).Rustico features a selection of antipasti and classical Italian starters and main dishes such as pasta, fish, meat and seafood. Its wine list has a good selection of Italian wines, wellknown Israeli wines and a choice of boutique wines.Upon sitting down, we were met with the homemade focaccia (NIS 18), served with a ceremonious mixing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A selection of starters followed, with Italian hits such as Caprese salad (NIS 48). This salad is at its best in summer, when basil is wonderfully aromatic and tomatoes are ripe and luscious. We were then presented with the tagliata alla rucola (NIS 68). The roasted and sliced beef tenderloin was medium rare and very tender, beautifully complemented with spicy arugula, olive oil and lemon.We then sampled the tartufo pizza (NIS 64). Laden with champignon mushrooms and truffle-infused oil, this pizza was heaven from the first bite! The crust was thin and crispy and slightly charred, and there was just the right amount of mozzarella cheese to complement and balance the pizza.As it was a very warm night, our friendly waiter offered us two glasses of apple mojito, which were very well received.After a bit of a breather, I was informed by the staff that the gnocchi at Rustico was a strong suit. Wanting to see for myself, I selected the gnocchi with smoked goose breast (NIS 71). They did not disappoint on their claim, as I found the dish to be exquisite. Very light and fluffy, the gnocchi were melt-inyour mouth delicious, while the goose breast was crisp and succulent.This was followed by the cannelloni (NIS 69) with ricotta cheese and spinach. A little heavy but really wonderful. It had so many different parts – crunchy edge, soft and warm center, lovely sauce and chewy noodle. We ordered hot drinks and took another breather. Then came dessert, which consisted of the chocolate pizza. Those who like Nutella would love this pizza. I think the dough they use for this pizza should be a touch thinner. It was tough getting through the crust, bu it definitely hit the spot.We were sorry to leave the merry crowd that filled the place. Rustico serves very good Italian food in an authentic rural Italian-style setting, with gracious and friendly service. If you plan to go, make sure to reserve a table in advance.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.Rustico (Not kosher). 42 Basel St., Tel Aviv. Tel: (03) 602-6969.