I had been planning on stopping by the cell phone service center in Givat Shaul, but… time was short and I decided I’d rather spend it over lunch with a friend than standing in line to get my cell phone fixed. Since I was already in the area, I looked around and reviewed the local culinary options, eventually entering a kosher restaurant café just across the street from where my car was parked.
Situated on 24 Kanfei Nesharim Street, Vanilla was established some 8 years ago by Mr. Moskowitz and his family. After traveling to Italy several times, Mr. Moskowitz decided that he was going to bring Italy to Gival Shaul and open a very casual Italian style diner-restaurant. The menu at Vanilla includes a wide variety of pasta dishes, pizza, fresh salads, breakfast specials sandwiches, fish and more.
11:45am and the tables were already beginning to fill up. The clientele varied from regulars on a lunch break, probably working in one of the adjacent office buildings or shopping complexes, to French tourists who were having trouble deciding between the salmon and the hraime – a dish of Moroccan or Tunisian origin consisting of fresh fish fillets cooked in a piquant tomato and vegetable sauce. Our first courses arrived. We started off with a dish of grilled eggplant and tahina, not very Italian but pretty tasty when made properly. The, second ‘starter’, two perfectly poached eggs seasoned with black pepper, salt and zaatar (hyssop) served on crispy slices of toast with a side salad, though an odd choice for an appetizer, was excellent and turned out to be a very good choice. This dish is usually served as part of the breakfast special and comes with a glass of freshly squeezed juice (pomegranate, orange, carrot and grapefruit) and a cup of coffee.
The service is very quick, mostly due to the fact that Vanilla uses a 'self service system', where orders are taken at the counter and the customer's name is called out when the food is ready. Oh, and there’s my name being called again - time for the entrees! We received two types of pasta – potato gnocchi in cream sauce and cheese ravioli sautéed with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and an assortment of colorful finely diced vegetables. Both dishes were prepared well and very generous in size.
With just enough time left for dessert I went over the counter and ordered a couple of espressos and a tasty halva and chocolate flavored pastry of Hungarian origin - kurtosh. Aside from the pasta, pizza and maybe the panzanella salad, it is hard to say that Vanilla is truly an Italian restaurant, but fresh and tasty food and a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, it doesn't really matter where the dishes were originally invented.
24 Cnafey Nesharin St., Givat Shmuel, Jerusalem