Some places are worth visiting just for the ambiance
And when living in Tel Aviv — sometimes you just want to get away.
Italy is always a perfect choice.
It was the second time I had visited Rustico, a charming, warm, stylish, (and if I’m honest – sexy) eatery. The walls are artificially weathered, the paneling is a multicolored wooden puzzle, the authentic wood-burning pizza oven warms the chilly night air away, and the bar…is just a lot of fun.
As usual, it was crowded, and we didn’t have a reservation. Luckily, as we were only three, there was space at the bar. This turned out to be quite fortuitous — bar-side seats provide a bird’s eye view of ALL the cooking action. That’s bravery for you — a kitchen that’s open for everyone to see — no need for a chef’s table here.
Simplicity is often the best policy
Here I must mention that I’m not a creature of habit. Sometimes I wish I were. I like to try everything. But this time, I didn’t. I simply loved what I ate last time at Rustico, and I have often found myself craving it (and attempting variations of it at home). And what kind of gourmet would I be if I didn’t relish giving in to cravings? So I went with the simple Lemon & Spinach Pappardelle. Dreamy. I love pappardelle because it’s simultaneously a long and a wide pasta. Think fettuccine that’s five times as wide. It really holds a sauce well, and it’s heavy enough to feel hearty. Because of this, I find the lighter butter-lemon sauce a perfect contrast. It’s fresh fresh fresh, and oh so tangy – bearably so – but sometimes you need that tongue-curling goodness.
My dinner companions were Mom and Dad, and each ordered a risotto and another simple pasta dish. All well made. We were really happy. The only ho-hum element was my unremarkable Valpolicella. They just don’t import anything really classy to Israel, I find time and time again (I’ve found it remarkably difficult to find my new favorites – Sicilian wines – at even the nicest wine stores). And unless you go to a restaurant that specifically calls itself a wine-bar, wine lists even at top eateries are extremely short.
For dessert we split the Scatziatina (sp?), pizza dough shmeared with chocolate, topped with Mascarpone, then closed up like a calzone and fired up in the pizza oven. It’s the Italian version of a French crepe, I tell you. Scrummy.
Verdict? A perfect place for a perfect night out. It’s a place for a first date, a family dinner, or a celebration — it seems to dress up or down on demand. Rustic-chic, I should say. The food is a bit pricey (pastas 51-63 shekels; meats 62-93; small pizzas in the 40’s), but the decor, the super-attentive wait staff, and the gutsy clean-as-a-whistle kitchen crew make it worth your buck.
With a branch on Rothschild Blv in the south and Basel Street in the north, Rustico is a really great choice no matter where you find yourself…when craving a bit of an Italian getaway.
My parents are leaving tonight, so my two weeks of restaurant heaven are about to come to a close. I’m slowly compiling my photos and thoughts about each. Restaurants to come include: Hashdera 34; Barbounia; and Rak Bassar (“Just Meat”). I’m sure there are others, too I’m not thinking of. So come back for a visit, and happy eating!