In nearly every self-respecting town in the world one can find an establishment going by the name of ‘Caf? Roma.’ There is something in that combination of words that sets it aside as one of the favorite monikers in the restaurant business. Each of these places has its own story: starting with the famous Parisian version, home of the intellectuals, through the popular one in Barcelona, and the one in New York City. Joining the club is Caf? Roma in Petach Tikva, putting the town on the map.
The caf? which opened six years ago is more of a restaurant than a caf?, and it is here that the Italian trend in the area began. Although Italian joints have spilled all over the scene, like sauce over pasta, Caf? Roma seems to hold on to the crown. It is almost always completely full. For breakfast and lunch, the clientele is usually those who work in the area. Dinnertime sees the restaurant as the informal place of congregation for moderate religious Jews, those of the knitted skullcap variety, and also those who usually knit those skullcaps… the night we were there, for example, the long table next to ours had a group of happy teenage girls, celebrating a birthday, and some other tables were all women, as well. There is something about the informal atmosphere, the rich menu, and the skillful preparation that does the trick.
We opened with small munchable garlic rolls, served with cream cheese. Each bite came with a promise that it would be the last one, so as not to get too full too soon. Yet somehow we wound up with a basket containing only a single roll, which we only left alone since our first courses arrived: for him it was the creamy country onion soup, served in a bread bowl; for me it was an unusual dish, described by the menu as “Salmon-Teriyaki Salad” but I think the term “salad” may be a bit misleading. In fact, each dish on the salad list could stand on its own as a full meal – each one is a mix of many types of vegetables, with satisfying additions such as fine cheeses, egg, nuts, pasta, or fish. My salad, for example, included a healthy amount of chunks of fresh salmon, saut?ed in teriyaki sauce, over a bed of lettuce, baby greens, vegetables, and nuts. It was a sizeable dish, and quite delicious, although, thanks to the wisely chosen ingredients and the light preparation, there was room left for more.
The meal went on, of course. My choice of calzone, was a homemade pastry, filled with fresh mushrooms, onions, Bulgarian (brindsah) cheese, and hard yellow cheese, served with tomato salsa and fresh vegetable salad. He, for his part, decided he had enough pastries and opted for the flagship dish of the pastas, called “Pasta Roma” of course, with a piquant sauce of tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, basil, and cream – superb!
A line was forming and the pressure was growing at the doorway, but we would not abandon our posts before having our coffee. A nice cappuccino and a decadent helping of Belladonna cake (cream of white chocolate with crushed pecans, covered in bitter chocolate) helped us get up and free our seats for those waiting in line. They deserve their fun too.
16 Moshe Dayan St., Kiryat Aryeh, Petach Tikva