Earlier this week, Ernesto 90 received an honor that no other Italian restaurant in Israel can brag about: the Diploma di Buona Cucina -- certificate of fine cuisine -- awarded by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina -- the Italian Academy of Cuisine, the foremost Italian cultural institution dedicated to preserving the traditions of Italian gastronomy.
The presentation of the prestigious award was made to owner Ernesto Mercheria by Dr. Cinzia Klein, Delegate of the Israeli chapter of Accademia Italiana della Cucina.
“This the first time the Diploma di Buona Cucina is being awarded in Israel,” said Dr. Klein at the ceremony, which was attended by about two dozen members of the local delegation of the Accademia.
As part of the award ceremony, Mercheria presented Dr, Klein with one of his recipes, for inclusion in the recipe archives of the Accademia in Italy. The recipe is for “rigatoni alla carbonara di zucchini e bottarga” -- rigatoni in carbonara sauce with zucchini and cured fish roe.
Following the ceremony, members of the Accademia sat down for a festive meal to enjoy Ernesto’s authentic cuisine. As one of the attendees said, “There is no place in Israel closer to a genuine Italian trattoria than Ernesto.”
As antipasti, Ernesto sent out plates bearing three delicacies: zucchini flowers, arancini, and “carcioffi alla giudia.”
Zucchini flowers are a rare treat by themselves; and as prepared by Ernesto -- battered with anchovy and mozzarella cheese and fried tempura-style -- they are truly an extraordinary treat.
The plump arancini -- fried rice balls stuffed with cheese -- were crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside, just like they are supposed to be.
The carcioffi -- baby artichokes -- were prepared in the tradition of the Jewish community of Rome: fried gently in olive oil and seasoned with lemon. The vegetable, soft at the bottom and crispy at the top, was delicious.
For the pasta course, most of the diners had Ernesto’s signature rigatoni, per his recipe now enshrined in the Accademia Italiana della Cucina. The carbonara sauce was decadently rich, enhancing the hearty pasta studded with shards of al dente zucchini; the topping of bottarga, meanwhile, added a welcome touch of zest.
This dish is a most unique creation, and alone worth a visit to Ernesto 90.
After the filling pasta, the party decided to skip the main course and go right to dessert. Naturally, many ordered the classic tiramisu, which was excellent: sweet mascarpone cream that was chiffon-like in texture, swirled with flavorful espresso.
Among the distinguished guests at the award ceremony were Dr. Elena Loewenthal, cultural attache at the embassy of Italy in Israel; Prof. Stefano Boccaletti, scientific attache at the Italian embassy; Prof. Marcella Ansaldi, director of the Jewish museum in Venice; and Prof. Ariel Toaff.
Ben Yehudah St. 90, Tel Aviv
Tel. (03) 527-3395
Photos by Silvia Golan