Chef Dan Zoaretz and Dalida. Photos courtesy of Dalida.
By Danielle Crittenden Frum
Recently we journeyed to the heart of Tel Aviv’s Levinsky market to Dalida, on Zebulun Street. This two-year-old restaurant is the creation of Dan Zoaretz — one of the new chefs leading the race for Israeli fusion food.
Dalida is set behind a chic, glass door in a row of otherwise traditional market stalls selling spices and fresh fruit. Zoaretz, who for the better part of his young career worked in Asian cuisine restaurants, decided to break out and embrace his mixed, exotic heritage:
“My grandmother was from Yemen, my father from Libya. There is a lot of European in there too,” Zoaretz told me as we sat at a front table in the restaurant one recent morning, just as the day was getting started. Delivery men passed back and forth hauling crates of fresh vegetables while outside I could hear the grates opening on neighboring stalls. Zoaretz said he chose the name Dalida after the Egyptian-born singer who sang in more than 10 languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, English and even Japanese.
“She was from Egypt but her father was Italian and she lived in France,” Zoaretz said. “I wanted to base my kitchen on this concept. So I took the Arabic thing, the Italian, the French … and a lot of other immigrant food, and did a culture fusion.”
I asked Zoaretz which, of all of these, did he consider his most exotic? He pointed to an item on the menu simply listed as “Mom’s Pasta.” This, he explained, was a traditional fresh pasta in pomodoro sauce, but with a Lebanese twist — including cumin and chili. He serves it on a brown glass plate — a tribute to the surrounding, less glamorous ethnic restaurants where, at lunchtime, old men crouch over Persian and Yemenite dishes served up on the same type of standard-issue market glass plate. Indeed Dalida is a tribute to the Levinsky market as a whole— bringing, as Ben-Zion David does, old methods to completely modern creations.