When in Ro…Ra’anana?

“The focaccia melted in my mouth, as though it was made of butter, and the creamy tomato sauce left its mark, urging me to take another bite…” Ori Goshen still finds it hard to believe that the wonderful La Toscana restaurant is located in Ra’anana and not in Italy.

With a ponderousness characteristic of sumo wrestlers, my girlfriend, Ricky, and I made our way back to the car. The short distance from the restaurant to the car seemed to us like a marathon, and we ridiculously contemplated calling a cab to assist us. When we finally made our way to the cushioned seats of the car, we sat still for around 5 minutes, trying to digest (literally and figuratively) the culinary experience we had just had at La Toscana restaurant.

“La Toscana” is a name that raises many expectations, and this restaurant managed to rise to the challenge. When saying “La Toscana”,” one might as well say “the finest food in all of Italy,” and between us – we’ve all hear a variation of this a million times before. This time, however, the restaurant was worthy of the name, and had I not driven to Ra’anana myself, I may have believed that we were indeed overseas.

We were greeted by Maor, a pleasant and smiling waiter, who made us feel right at home. The checkered tablecloths covering the tables reminded us of an old, rustic style, and yet the overall d?cor of the restaurant also combined modern elements, and more importantly – warmth. Maor wastes no time and outlines the recommended dishes for us, while placing an emphasis on the soup of the day. It may have been his smile or, perhaps, our difficulty in choosing from such a great selection, we decided to follow his recommendations vis-?-vis the first courses and the entr?es.

On Maor’s recommendation, we decided to open with Melenzana Parmigiana – sliced eggplant baked in creamy tomato; focaccia with salsa verde sauce; and the soup of the day: onion and eggplant soup. Within ten short minutes, these dishes were served to our table. We started with the soup, which was a bit of a gamble to begin with. We had never had eggplant soup before. However, once the first spoonful touched our lips, we knew we had made the right decision. Ricky never parted with the soup, while I decided to also explore the eggplant parmesan. I broke off a piece of focaccia and placed some of the creamy eggplant on it. The focaccia melted in my mouth, as though it was made of butter, and the creamy tomato sauce left its mark, urging me to take another bite, which I did. As I finished this dish, Ricky emptied the soup bowl, and we both sat, half-full, and awaited the entr?es.

We were still savoring the flavors of the first courses when the table filled yet again, with two full and appetizing plates. The first was a dish of grilled-seared salmon skewers in soy sauce, served with salad and rice; the second was a bowl of Funghi Lasagna. While the salmon failed to completely win us over, the lasagna was… a dream! It is worth noting that the lasagna was highly recommended, and it was explained to us that the house chef prepares the layers himself. Indeed, an unforgettable course. The last time a lasagna made my eyes open so wide (and not due to burning my tongue) was on a family trip to Southern Italy a few years back. This dish alone was worth the drive from Tel Aviv.

At this point, breathing presented a challenge, and the top buttons on my pants were begging for mercy. As I was considering putting them out of their misery, our waiter arrived with a smile and a tray of interesting desserts. Saying “no” was out of the question. Again, we played it safe, followed Maor’s recommendation, and were not left disappointed. I ordered the creamy-espresso tiramisu cake, painfully pleasurable, while Ricky enjoyed the apple pie, served in a shell of sorts, the inside of which houses the warm pie, and topped with a quality scoop of vanilla.

To unwind from the meal, I relaxed with a cappuccino, while Ricky sipped a herbal tea with the odd name of “Bora-Bora.” This tea was delightfully aromatic, and included raisins, grapes, and additional ingredients which we were no longer in any state to remember. We parted from La Toscana, promising to return. However, when we do, we wil