The Israel chapter of the Italian Academy of Cuisine (l’Accademia Italiana della Cucina) held its first and only meal ever outside the greater Tel Aviv area on March 9, 2018, at Manuella Ristorante Italiano, in Zikhron Yaakov.
The Academy visited Manuella in the framework of an outing to the wine country city. The day began with a guided tour of the Beit Aaronsohn NILI Museum, whose exhibits are dedicated to the exploits of the Aaronsohn family and the NILI espionage ring that it founded; the NILI underground operated in pre-state Israel during World War I in support of the British against the Ottoman Empire, and on behalf of the local Jewish population. Following the visit to the museum, Academy members proceeded to the restaurant, off the city’s downtown pedestrian mall.
Manuella is a family-owned restaurant whose love for Italy stems from the refuge that Bosnian Jewish refugees found from the Holocaust in that country; the Italian nobleman who hid the family was subsequently recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
Chef Raz Nadav studied in Italy and opened Manuella with his mother in 2010. In 2014, he took third place in a nationwide pizza contest sponsored by the Italian Embassy in Israel. A handsome bronze plaque also identifies the restaurant as the proud recipient of the Ospitalita Italiana award, bestowed by the embassy in recognition of the authenticity of Manuella’s cuisine.
“There are only seven restaurants in the country with this designation,” says Chef Nadav, “and we are the only restaurant outside of Tel Aviv to be honored in this way.”
The Academy luncheon at Manuella commenced with the arrival of the Ambassador of Italy in Israel, His Excellency Gianluigi Benedetti and his wife Sabina. The event was chaired by Academy Delegate Cinzia Klein, and the symposiarchs were Vice Delegate Sabrina Fadlun and ANSA bureau chief Dr. Massimo Lomonaco.
The menu comprised five courses, beginning with an aperitivo consisting of slices of focaccia topped with a ceviche of white fish, and continuing with no fewer than four antipasti: the house focaccia with three condiments (tomato concasse, a zucchini spread, and garlic confit); a panzanella salad of croutons and cherry tomatoes; fried cubes of polenta with sautéed portobello mushrooms in a balsamic reduction; and a green salad of lettuce, asparagus and walnuts in a champagne vinaigrette,
The two pasta dishes served as primi were gnocchi with flakes of fish in a tomato sauce, and sweet potato ravioli in a butter sauce, with shaved Sardinian pecorino.
There were both fish and meat main courses, with diners able to enjoy both and not have to choose between them: meagre fish with steamed spinach and artichoke cream, and beef filet cooked sous vide, with a salad of arugula in a balsamic vinaigrette.
The dessert course encompassed an attractive assortment of small pastries: hazelnut eclairs, Florentine cookies, strawberry vanilla tarts and pistachio tarts
The red and white wines accompanying the meal were imported from Italy: Frascati from Lazio and Valpolicella from Veneto.
At the conclusion of the meal, there was applause for the chef, who was presented with the gift of a book on the role of cheese in traditional Italian cuisine.
Among the distinguished guests attending the luncheon were Dr. Massimo Sarti, director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Tel Aviv; Architect Arie Sonnino; Sabina Mayer, Esq.; Professor Stefano Boccaletti, science attaché at the embassy of Italy; and Dr. Roberto della Rocca, president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Israel.
Photos by Silvia Golan