20:00 – After a refreshing 20-minute bike ride along the beach from central Tel Aviv, I arrive at il Yaffo Café a bit early. I wait for Orit while chatting on the phone with a friend and watch as a group of around 30 gets up to leave, having finished an early dinner after a long day touring Jaffa.
20:15 – Orit and I enter the empty café white it’s in the process of being re-assembled after the large dinner party.
20:30 – The band is setting up, but the café is still empty and we begin to wonder if this solitude will continue all night.
20:45 – The first groups of dressed up 50-somethings begin to trickle in. We had clearly arrived unfashionably early. Ah well, now we know that on live music nights (this one, a Tuesday, features a Greek band playing traditional music) the cool kids don’t arrive till well after 9.
Pursuing the special night menu – a sort of ‘best of’ compilation of the café’s extensive Italian themed offerings – we select the antipasti to begin and the Pizza Fungi and a pan-fried filet of tilapia (a daily special) for our mains. We also couldn’t help but notice the oh-so-reasonably priced drink menu, so we each went for our favourites, clinking our respective overflowing glasses of martini bianco and arak before the food arrived.
The flavourful antipasti was served cold, consisting of red pepper, zucchini, sweet potato and eggplant. Having whetted our appetites with the healthy vegetables, we them moved onto the pizza, which arrived hot, crisp and cheesy, though a bit heavy handed on the tomato paste in the sauce to my taste. The tilapia was well cooked – flaky and tender and tasting of the sea, it was the perfect dish to ready us for the adventure to come.
21:30 – The Greek band begins to play. Images of turquoise seas and white and blue mountaintop churches drift in an out of my consciousness.
21:52 – We finish eating, finally admitting that the generous portion of tilapia has us beat. The party is just getting started. A lively group of four has interlaced arms and is showing the now packed-to-the-rafters cafe what Greek dancing is all about.
22:39 – Orit and I, the youngest people in the room by at least 15 years, are plowing through a tasty cheese mousse as a long Greek conga line heads out into the street to share their Greek enthusiasm with the world. Orit and I move on to the beauty of a pear tart, savoring the crisp buttery crust.
With a different live band almost everyday of the week, check the il Yaffo Café website to find the night for you. As for Orit and I on this surprising Tuesday, we left with smiles on our faces, Greek tunes humming on our lips and nothing left to say but yassou!
il Yaffo Café
11 Oley Zion St., Flea Market, Jaffa