Italian cuisine will always be in style. While no longer at the peak of its popularity as it was at the end of the 1990s, as Israeli palates moved towards Japanese and general Mediterranean food, Italian restaurants have been making a comeback in Tel Aviv in the past two years. Here are the top seven Italian restaurants we recommend you try:
For those who love simple and tasty Italian food in an intimate atmosphere, try this well-hidden little restaurant. It has two floors, one with an open kitchen and a handful of tables and another with a non-threatening bar. The menu is limited, emphasizing vegetarian dishes with some dishes that include salmon. This is not a place for sophisticated dishes, but one with good pasta, one type of pizza and traditional antipasti. There is, however, a wine menu with 250 labels from Israel and Italy and a grappa selection no less impressive with 100 different kinds to choose from.
Recommended Dishes: The pizza with anchovies and the asparagus antipasti.
Why here: Because of the wine, lack of pretense and food that does not disappoint.
Average prices: NIS 100 per diner, without wine.
Address: 53 Ben Yehuda St.
Tamar Cohen sure knows how to make some pasta. Her restaurant is located in the less attractive part of town but the food is truly inspired, while remaining delicate and understated. The place has a homey atmosphere that still feels very Tel Avivian. Along with the regular menu there is one just for the parmigiano that offers seven small dishes, each made with fine Parmesan cheese.
Recommended Dishes: Artichoke tortellini that are close to perfection; Tartufo ravioli.
Why here: Because this restaurant has the best pasta in the city - just like the pasta in good restaurants in Italy.
Average prices: NIS 130-150 per diner, without wine.
Address: 10 Hatzefira St.
Il Pastaio is a family-run business where three generations of the Sarno-Ashkenazi family work. Located for more than two decades on one of the quieter corners of Tel Aviv's bustling Ibn Gvirol Street, the restaurant offers classic Italian food from a diverse but constant menu that has not changed since the establishment opened its doors. The place has a romantic backstory. It was founded by an Italian woman named Vittoria from Milan who fell in love with an Israeli named Moshe. Together they opened a restaurant in Tel Aviv. Moshe is the head waiter, their son makes the pasta and their daughter manages the restaurant.
Recommended Dishes: Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella; Ravioli with mushroom porcini; veal milanese (fried with bread crumbs).
Why here: It is a classic spot with great food built on experience and love.
Average prices: NIS 150 per diner, without wine.
Address: 27 Ibn Gvirol St.
When Rafi Adar opened this restaurant 21 years ago he was trying to create a little corner of Italy on one of the nicest corners in the city. The restaurant is elegant with tables set with white tablecloths and wine glasses and the appropriate lighting. If you sit outside, you can also enjoy the cool and pleasant breeze of the Tel Aviv night. The restaurant received awards from the Italian Chamber of Commerce for its promotion of Italian culture and it offers primarily Roman cuisine that is both rich and delicious. Perhaps the best proof of this restaurant's tasty offerings is its great number regulars.
Recommended Dishes: Carpaccio with parmigiano, Spaghetti calamari with asparagus and zucchini; winter lamb ossobuco that goes well with risotto.
Why here: The formula simply works: an elegant restaurant with excellent Italian food that has a hybrid Rome-Tel Aviv atmosphere.
What is more important the pasta or the sauce? At Pasta Mia you can choose your own combination of both. The pasta is made fresh on the premises and can even be bought by weight and cooked at home. The menu includes a wide variety of pastas including wonderful ravioli and gnocchi, along with pizzas and some standard appetizers. During the lunch hour there are special deals with prices starting as low as NIS 25 and going up to NIS 67.
Recommended Dishes: Spinach ravioli with tomato sauce and peppers; spaghetti aglio e olio with mushrooms and leek.
Why here: The pasta is made on the premises, prices are incredibly low and the family-friendly atmosphere.
Average Prices: NIS 60-100 per diner, less at lunchtime.
Address: 10 Wilson St.
Mel & Michelle
Since it was opened four years ago, Mel & Michelle has become one of the trendiest restaurants in the city. The menu includes many free-style variations on classic Italian foods, but still relies on simplicity and good ingredients. Among the restaurant's specialties are homemade cured meats, such as duck prosciutto and bresaola.
Recommended Dishes: The menu changes by season, but one should not miss the platter of homemade cured meats or the Parisian gnocchi, which are cheese-filled gnocchi served with white truffle cream sauce.
Why here: An intimate restaurant, with high quality food that warms the heart.
Average Prices: NIS 150-200 per diner, not including wine.
Address: 155 Ben Yehuda St.
A joyous and unpretentious trattoria that specializes in superb pizzas. The restaurant is located by Tel Aviv's Hacarmel market with an easygoing atmosphere. The ingredients are of high quality and the food is simple but satisfying. One can also order half portions of most of the dishes, except for the pizza, which allows diners to sample a number of different dishes without leaving a dent in their wallets. You can also sit at the bar for a quick pizza and a glass of wine.
Recommended Dishes: All the pizzas are good, but try the fresh spinach puree, roasted tomatoes and mozzarella or the mushroom tartufo pizza with hardboiled egg.
Why here: Friendly service and the thin-crust pizzas will make you feel like you're in Italy.
Average prices: NIS 60-80 per dinner, without wine.
Address: 13 Hillel Hazaken St.