At chef Duhul Safdi’s famous Diana Restaurant in Nazareth, there is always a “seasonal dish.” In winter, it may be wild spinach with lamb; in summer, the green leaves may be replaced by okra; and no matter the season, you want to scoop up every last drop of the delicate lemony stock in which the dish is cooked. Also on offer is a dish of maluhiya (a wild herb) with tangy yogurt, or a rice dish with maluhiya in beef stock. Those who are addicted to Safdi’s famous kebabs or lamb ribs shouldn’t miss out on other traditional delights featured on the regular menu, such as ras al-usfur (a small cut of lamb) or the safiha (a kind of pastry stuffed with meat and seasoned with yogurt and harissa, a spicy condiment).
In the late 1960s, the Diana Cinema opened in Nazareth. During intermissions, the late Mohammed Safdi, who worked as an usher at the cinema and was a devotee of culinary pleasures, began selling lamb skewers with tehina on a pita. His makeshift grill grew into a stall that served up falafel, skewers of grilled meat and hosi – offal fried in olive oil and onion (a terrific accompaniment to raw kibbeh).
Mohammed Safdi was the father of Duhul Safdi, and his food stall subsequently went through several incarnations, especially after he was joined by his talented son, eventually becoming one of Israel’s most intriguing restaurants.
In recent years, there have been some major changes. The original location was abandoned for the sake of a larger kitchen in the distant El-Mutran neighborhood; a chain that tried to translate the traditional recipes into fast food to be sold in big city centers opened and closed; and now Duhul and his golden touch have returned to the spot where the restaurant was born, on the main thoroughfare – Paul VI Street, walking distance from the Old City.
Diana (Abu Duhul), 51 Paul VI Street, Nazareth, (04) 647-5566, (04) 657-2919