We have had a dream of opening a pizza place of our own in Israel. This is not only inspired by the idea of wanting great simple food and the love of Pizza, but the lack of what we consider, compared to the multiplicity of options in the States, GOOD pizza. Most slices easily grabbed as a single slice in the majority of pizza joints here are either too doughy, too soggy, lacking flavor or not original enough in their toppings. Cheese is more expensive than chicken per kilo in Israel, so a slice or a whole pizza is not a really a cheap meal, most family sized pies with more than one topping being an average of 80 shekels.
Pizza has its origin in Napoli, Italy, is a protected dish there that must be made to certain specs in order to be called pizza and has become the world’s most popular food. A few blocks away from the home I grew up in in the States was a real Neopolitan making authentic pizza, and that was it, just a place to pick up, carry-out, hardly a place to sit down (no delivery) and wait for an awesome pie where Dino, a devoted Italian artisan and family man was the only one manning the whole operation. It just was far above the pizza any of the chains were offering and probably ruined me for anything less. Of course Dino wasn’t making kosher pizzas, another stumbling block to great pizza in Israel, if you want to be kosher the toppings have to be meatless.
The concept of pizza in Israel is represented by the many chains where you can order a large pie, pick it up or have it delivered or where you can walk in and pick up a quick slice that is sitting cold under glass. Your cold slice will be heated up for you and you can sit there for a few minutes in a plastic chair and buy a drink from a fridge or run back to the street or your car and fill your stomach. Slices now run about 14-16 shekels.
Bardak is relatively new to the restaurant scene here, having opened in 2013 has now amazingly already been ranked #1 on tripadvisor for restaurants in Jerusalem. It is a restaurant, not just a pizza stop. I think they’ve done it, achieved a truly flavorful pizza with their sauces, hand-tossed crust with the right density and texture for local tastes. It is located in Talbiyeh, across from the Inbal hotel at the intersection of Jabotinsky and Keren Hayesod in a building block with several other eateries. They don’t deliver, but you can order on the phone +972-2-5877795 and pick up. They don’t offer a menu you can take home.
All the pizzas are hand tossed and the menu is divided up into designer pies named after Jerusalem neighborhoods, and cleverly most have just a little of that neighborhood’s personality in the pizza. Craft beers made in Israel are on tap as well as many other bottled varieties made right here locally. Sundays offer all you can drink draft beer for 65 shekels per person, not an offer I’d win at but a great value for those who can. The developer has created some surprising flavors and combinations using dried fruits, cumin, shukshuka sauce, kashkoval, tehina, eggplant, along with the more basic requests like mozzarella cheese, mushroom and tomato.
The hand-tossed crusts create a great result, not soggy, not too crispy for local tastes and not too doughy. Great sauces are incorporated and they don’t skimp on toppings. The atmosphere is intimate, warm and crowded, with a long wood bar and seating, nostalgic and amusing décor with posters of comics and old city street signs on the east wall. There is a tv for sports fans. Bardak offers mainly table and bar seating and is a pizza place that is a real restaurant, a destination, not a place to grab food and go, even though you can if you want.
A photo of the Bardak menu taken with my phone is featured here, not too clear but you get the idea.