I have just returned from a week in Israel and I am so excited to share all of my new discoveries with you. On this trip I visited three cities - Beer Sheva, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem - each with distinct personalities.
I spent my first three days in Beer Sheva, which is about a 90 minute drive from Tel Aviv. Beer Sheva is "in the South" as the Israelis say, and is also in the desert.
On my first night, my bestie and I ventured out for dinner at Goomba, an Italian restaurant in a newly opened mall called Yes Planet. Beer Sheva has a bit of a suburban feel and most of the good restaurants are inside shopping malls.
Goomba has a huge outdoor patio and an even bigger space inside.
My friend, her husband and their kids are regulars at Goomba, so when we walked in just the two of us, the manager came right over and said, "Where are the kids?!" My BFF explained that I was visiting from the States and she felt I had to try this spot. He was thrilled and immediately grabbed me an English menu.
Though I had the menu in hand, my friend asked, "Can I order for us? Do you trust me?" She has been picking restaurants for us in Israel for 10 years, so of course I said, "Do it!"
She placed our order at the counter and they gave us a buzzer. You get to pick your own table, set your own place and then they buzz you when your food is ready in the kitchen window.
Goomba has a very cute vibe. It reminded me of the spaghetti and meatball scene in Lady & The Tramp (which is my favorite Disney movie of all time).
Behind this glass window you can watch the chefs making pasta.
I love the classic Italian feel of the red and white checkered placemats and of course, the branded plates, pitchers and glasses.
Our first dish was the artichoke and parmesan salad, which came topped with two monster breadsticks. Let me tell you something, this country knows how to do bread. Every single restaurant, no matter what you order, serves bread as a starter or on the side. They take it very seriously.
This is a great dish to share because the portion is so generous. In addition to the artichokes and parmesan, the bowl is also filled with lettuce, carrots and sun-dried tomatoes. It's all tossed in a Caesar-like dressing. I loved it.
Next we moved on to my friend's very most favorite dish, the home made tortellini with roasted mushrooms, ricotta cheese, butter sauce and truffle oil. Did you just have a heart attack?
This tortellini (and its filling) is so creamy and heavenly. I couldn't stop eating it.
Even once we'd devoured all the pasta pillows, I used the breadsticks from the salad to soak up more butter and truffle sauce. Savage? Maybe.
We also shared a small margherita pizza. I found it interesting the restaurant called it margherita, because traditionally that pizza is made with slices of mozzarella cheese, a light tomato sauce and fresh basil. My friend shared that they do also make that style pizza, but they call it by a different name.
This pizza was yummy (all pizza is), but not particularly memorable. I was so obsessed with the butter and truffle sauce from the tortellini, that I also used my pizza crust for dipping.
Goomba does have dessert, but we were already planning to stop by a gelato shop around the corner, Leggenda. Goomba's desserts are all individually packaged in jars, which is adorable and also makes them easy to take home if you're too stuffed for dessert right after dinner.
We took our extra pieces of pizza home and I loved the "Grazie!" message on the takeout container. It's the little things.
Now I know what you must be thinking. Did she really have Italian food for her first meal in Israel? Not hummus or falafel? I did and for two reasons: first, I trust my friend's taste in restaurants and knew she would never take me somewhere subpar and second, I have a history of having great Italian food in unexpected places. Do you remember that my first meal in Paris a few years ago was also at an Italian place? It was called Gambino and it was stellar. I am starting to think eating Italian on the first night of a big trip may be good luck.
If you live in Israel or are planning a trip soon, Goomba also has locations in Petach Tikva and Rishon LeTzion.