"We ordered a special dish called Sheppard's Pie. It was a very rich dish which came in an elliptical dish. The mash is actually a puree of potato and sweet potato and the filling is made of red peppers, cubes of eggplant, cheese and pieces of chestnuts. And wow – what a taste…I was once again brought back to my childhood." Naama Halevi tells the wonderful story of HaCafe Shel Gidi (Gidi's Coffee House) in Ramat Gan.
This is the story of an amazing café, done up in vintage style, as well as a bit of my own personal nostalgia. Gidi's father, the owner, immigrated to Israel in 1925 when he was 15 years old. He found work as an apprentice in a lampshade factory where he learned the art sewing and assembling lampshades. He then opened a factory in Jerusalem and following it, another in Tel Aviv's Florentine neighborhood. In 1982, son Gidi opened a small shop on HaRoeh Street at the corner of Ben Gurion in Ramat Gan and called it 'Beit Ha'ahil Shel Gidi' (Gidi's House of Lampshades). All the various styles of lampshades were named after members of the family.
For many years and during my entire childhood, every single weekend on the way to visit grandma and grandpa we passed by 'Beit Ha'ahil Shel Gidi'. For years, even as a small child, I was very curios about this shop. Therefore, it was with mixed feelings of happiness and warm nostalgia that I satisfied my curiosity with a visit to Gidi's Coffee House, which had replaced the famous shop. What a fun place. The décor is delicate and lovely, painted in cream with green tables. On part of the raised wood floor, behind glass, lit with dim light are 2 lampshades, keepsakes from the shop. The hominess is apparent in everything – the décor, the comfortable seating, and of course, in the special fine food.
What sort of food is there to taste at a café? Rosi and I thought to ourselves on the way over to Gidi's Coffee House after a day of work. Oh how wrong we were. It's enough just to look at the menu to feel the family in this restaurant (and yes, it most certainly is a restaurant) with dishes like 'Mini Salad' or 'Mini Soup' that understand that some of us eat like birds, and with dishes like 'Cock-a-doodle-do' – a egg salad/omelet/green omelet sandwich with mayonnaise, yellow cheese, cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce, or fresh shakes made on-site. Even the dips, sauces, jams, olives and spreads are made by Chef Haim Salmon. This dairy menu is very rich indeed with sandwiches, salads, mains dishes, fish, specials and, of course, desserts. "I already know what we should order for dessert" said Rosi with a glint in her eye, and we both smiled in expectation of what was to come.
For a first course we ordered the Gidi Salad – the Chef's recommendation – a slightly sweet salad with feta cheese, toasted nuts and beet chips. We asked to taste a special that usually comes as a main: large mushrooms filled with a mixture of chopped mushroom, goat's cheese, fried onion and spices. The dish comes with an Asian flavored salad.
Because the dishes were extremely generous and we wanted to leave room for dessert, we ordered a single main dish to share. It was a special dish called Sheppard's Pie. It was a very rich dish and up until the last bite I couldn't believe that it didn't have any meat in it! (The restaurant is kosher dairy). The Sheppard's Pie came in an elliptical plate and at first glance looks like mashed potatoes with a crisped top. The surprise resides inside the pie: The mashed potato, explained the waiter, is actually a puree of potato and sweet potato. The filling is made of red peppers, cubes of eggplant, cheese and pieces of chestnuts. And wow – what a taste…I was once again brought back to my childhood. A cold winter, pounding rain outside and inside the space heater is set up on the floor with a wire rack that is covered in chestnuts. That sweet crisp taste, with the scent of winter…it sure is something.
What luck that we ordered just one main dish. Now we've got room for dessert! Or we thought we did anyway…
When the waiter arrived with two desserts that were chosen to best represent the restaurant, I noticed the joy in Rosi's eyes – one of them was the dessert she had spotted earlier. The first dessert was made up of 2 huge cream puffs filled with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream resting on a plate filled, and I mean filled, with hot chocolate sauce. Need I say more? The second dessert was kadayif (shredded pastry) filled with ricotta cheese. Next to the sweetness of the cream puffs, the slight tartness of the ricotta was just lovely.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at Gidi's Coffee House. It's a place to return to again and again – the menu is vast and one can't taste it all in a single visit (though we did do a decent job trying that night…), and the prices are very reasonable - between NIS 30 to 45 per main dish. Highly recommended!
Gidi's Coffee House (Beit HaCafe Shel Gidi)108 Ben Gurion, Ramat GanTel: 03-6722172