53 Ben Yehuda
The moment you step off of Ben Yehuda Street and into Piccola Pasta, you cannot help but surrender to the sound of glasses clinking in the midst of warm conversation. Charming was the first word that came to my mind when I stumbled unexpectantly across the restaurant nestled in the more desolate part of Ben Yehuda. I was immediately allured by the way the name “Picallo Piccola” was written in squiggly shapes on the side of the building. But when I walked through the front door, I was even more captivated. I felt as though I had the privilege of receiving a private invitation into somebody’s home – a home that has the charisma marked by an effortless elegance.
Owner and chef Yoav has created a true gem within the heart of a bustling Tel Aviv; a sanctuary for your taste buds. Choose to sip wine or grappa at the restaurant’s enchanting upstairs wine bar, or opt to dine over Italian delicacies at one of the quaint tables downstairs. When you first walk into Piccola Pasta, it is as though you have walked into a family heirloom. You can attribute it all to Yoav, who personally designed and decorated this dim, romantic, and peaceful restaurant. The oak wooden tables and oak walls set a comforting tone behind the burgundy glow of wine bottles nesting on wooden racks. The intimate setting sets an element for andendearing meal made with the highest standards of purity and refinement. All around, small groups and couples whisper over bottles of Israeli wine and aromatic dishes, while stealing glances into the open kitchen as Yoav sets each steaming plate for the server to bring to the table. His charismatic approach to life and love for Italian cuisine shine through every inch of the atmosphere.
Yoav attributes his love for cooking in part to his passion for connecting to people through something he can offer them; in this case, a dining experience. As Yoav puts it, he is an “entertainer”. For him, “the dining experience is not just about satisfying your hunger. “Food has always been more than just eating it. A true dining experience requires that the art of entertainment, from the atmosphere all the way down to the professionalism of the staff, be complete.” And my experience at Piccola Pasta was complete in every sense of Yoav’s definition.
Yoav has composed an extensive menu, which is all vegetarian with the exception of two fish dishes. After Yoav sorted through the daily delivery of fresh vegetables (literally delivered while I was sitting in the restaurant), he decided to make an asparagus antipasti prepared in butter, brandy, and grappa, one of the most celebrated dishes on the menu. Each bite reflected the rustic, uninhibated taste and texture of asparagus. The method of cooking had preserved the crisp crunch of asparagus, intensified by the sweetness of brandy and grappa. It was an amazingly intense taste without ever being overwhelming. Never have I loved a vegetable so much that I wanted to scrape every last bit off my plate as though it were was a slice of chocolate cake.
Other appetizers include the bruscetta served with homemade crostini. The tomatoes, basil and bold garlic pack a punch of flavor through the crispy parmesan crostini. As tempted as I was to fill up on the wonderful selection of appertizers, I was immedietey enamored by the pasta that sat on the table and wrapped around my fork ever so gently. The final dish looked like a piece of art sitting on a beautiful ceramic plate imported from Switzerland. The smell of fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic sent me into a food trance, a dreamlike daze of culinary euphoria. Yoav’s delicate touch has a way of preserving each flavor in the dish; every bite speaks to me in so many different tones. The pasta had one voice, the tomato another and the basil, garlic and olive oil simmered in my mouth for a final whisper.
Most importantly, Yoav offers a variety of pasta to satisfy a diversity of palates. The mushroom and anchovy sauce is a perfect blend of earthy and salty with a touch of zest. The asparagus pasta just the right amount of fresh and simple, it’s a place to satisfy any craving. If that’s not enough the simple, thin crust pizza can transport you back to Italy, with it’s thin crisp crust made from scratch, and imported Mozerrella cheese. When I thought I couldn’t possibly eat any more, I found myself indulging in the complete bliss of Yoav’s homemade Tiramisu. Creamy and decadent, this dessert captures perfection in a bowl. However what most diners rave about is the pannacotta which is rated by food bloggers as one of the best dishes in Tel Aviv. A delicate dish of cooked cream with subtle hints of vanilla and espresso beans. The kiss to end a perfect date.
And what is the perfect Italian meal without the perfect wine to go with it? Piccola Pasta
offers itits guests a multifarious choice of wine and grappa. It’s one of the few restaurants in Tel Aviv that does not serve soft drinks in order not to compromise the taste of the food. So when you dine at Piccola Pasta, don’t be shy to ask Yoav which one of his more than 250 bottles of wine he suggests you try. After dinner you can make your way upstairs to enjoy Picallo’s hidden wine bar that comes complete with comfy couches and chairs perfect for sipping a glass of wine, laughing, and savoring life.
It’s no surprise that Picallo Piccola Pasta is so well touted by diners, chefs and writers alike in Tel Aviv and around Israel. Chef Yoav Shimony’s winning personality and passion for food radiates through each dish. What’s more is that the quality and freshness of the food is intensified because Yoav makes each dish to order and cuts each vegetable before he sets it into the pan. His elegance and refinement honor each dish and the tradition of Italian country cuisine. His and the staff’s knowledge of wine is rare for Tel Aviv and heightens the experience to another level. When all is said and done your experience at Picallo Pasta will be unforgetable and at the end of your meal when you see the reasonable bill you will already be yearning for the next visit.
Interview by Laurenne Sarah
Written by Judith Goldstein