Lunch Italian style

Tarantino, in the heart of Tel Aviv, does its utmost to look and feel authentic.

pasta at tarantino_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
pasta at tarantino_311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Trying to reproduce the atmosphere of an Italian trattoria on the second floor of the Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv was never going to be easy, but new kosher dairy eatery Tarantino is trying its hardest. Situated next to some of the most popular fashion stores, it requires a massive suspension of disbelief to persuade yourself that you’ve just driven off the Rome autostrada for a rest and some authentic Italian food.
The tables are wooden, the floor roughly tiled, and from the walls Italian stars gaze down benignly as though willing this place to give a taste of their homeland. You can share your meal with Sophia Loren, Robert de Niro or Liza Minnelli if you so choose. The menu is heavily into pasta, pizza, lasagna and the usual suspects.
Tarantino is very popular with the lunchtime office crowd, and the owners are keen to get the evening traffic in as well. They have some attractive selling points like pasta and rice, balsamic vinegar and olive oil all imported from Italy, a famous chef (Leon Alkali) and another chef kept on the payroll just to turn out everyone’s favorite food – pizza, in all its many variations.
Enjoying attentive service from the manager (Gal) and young waiters who all looked like moonlighting students, we ordered our starters, which appeared after barely an interval.
The risotto balls filled with mozzarella and tomato were scrumptious, with a fresh crisp coating, which made a perfect contrast to the spicy soft filling. It came with a homemade lemon mayonnaise (NIS 39).
We also chose a plate of that ubiquitous dish that rejoices in the name antipasti – which is Italian for hors d’oeuvres, Vorspeisen or anything else that comes before the main course – and refers to roasted vegetables (NIS 37). It was the usual roasted slices of courgettes (zucchini) aubergine (eggplant) and sweet potato, flavored with garlic and rosemary, but it did have more unusual additions like beetroot and leeks, and one large mushroom in splendid isolation.
For the main course we chose fish rather than one of the abundant pasta dishes, thinking it would be a healthier choice, and were duly rewarded with two excellent dishes.
I had the lightly grilled fillets of fresh salmon (NIS 79) flavored with lemon and capers and served with fetuccini redolent with butter and herbs. My companion chose the goujons of barbunia deep fried in a beer batter (NIS 65). Our only complaint was that it came alone with a few lemon wedges for garnish. We ordered an Israeli salad to eat with it, as it was far too rich on its own.
Before ordering dessert, we were each spoiled with a wet wipe, already opened to avoid all that fiddling with the package – a nice touch.
The extensive dessert menu held some exciting promise, making it difficult to decide between long-time favorites like crème brulee and hot chocolate soufflé or apple crumble and cheese cake with cream. Thankfully, we plumped for the tiramisu, which was quite simply divine – a heavenly mix of coffee-flavored cookies and sweet cream with a hint of mascarpone. We also tried the sugar-free dessert, which was made with halva, nougat and bitter chocolate. It would have been fine on its own if we hadn’t tasted the tiramisu first. (All desserts are NIS 36.)
The liquid refreshments were an adequate glass of Sauvignon Blanc for me and a very interesting German beer for my companion, who was also able to enjoy a superb cappuccino at the end of what was an enjoyable and unpretentious meal.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Trattoria Tarantino Kosher, dairy Azrieli Center, 2nd floor, Tel Aviv (03) 609-3877