There are not that many kosher mehadrin Italian restaurants in Jerusalem, and finding really excellent ones can be a challenge. Recently my wife and I tried out what turned out to be a wonderful Italian restaurant called Trattoria Haba, Haba for short, right next to Mahane Yehuda in downtown Jerusalem.
If you’re wondering about the restaurant’s name, the term trattoria refers to a less formal, Italian-style restaurant and Haba is the name of the family that established the restaurant (the Haba family is well-known for their bakeries in Jerusalem).
The truth is, I walked past Trattoria Haba many times on my visits to Mahane Yehuda, but whenever I glanced into the place as I hurried by, all I saw was a beautiful variety of breads and baked goods. I mistakenly thought that this was “just” a bakery. I’m not one to go out of my way to buy baked goods. I guess I’m more of a meat and potatoes type of guy.
You might ask how then did I discover Haba – the restaurant? Well, the answer to that is simple – I didn’t discover it. My wife did! We had just finished a very disappointing dinner experience at another restaurant nearby, and we were strolling back to our car when Haba caught my wife’s eye. Maybe I should listen to her more often…
We poked our heads in to take a look and the place was packed. That’s a tell-tale sign that it’s worth investigating further! We asked to take a look at the menu, and it looked really inviting. As we went on our way, I made a mental note for us to visit Haba in the future. Last week I decided that the time had come, and we weren’t disappointed at all.
The decor at Haba is casual but with some really charming touches. The wall directly to the left upon entering is painted a bright yellow and is covered with professionally designed signs in Hebrew and English touting the “Catch of the Day,” “Pasta Fresca” “Drink in or Take Out” – is that a funny translation from Hebrew or what? Beneath the signs are wooden bins filled with colorful fresh fruits and vegetables.
The adjacent wall is lined with shelves with bags of coffee beans, wine bottles and specialty breads prepared in Haba’s bakery upstairs. The front counter is covered with baguettes, gorgeous pastries and specialty items such as strawberry jam, cherry tomato spread, pickled lemon cream – all made by the house.
The chairs and tables are cafe style, they’re not fancy, but they fit in with the overall feel of the restaurant. Towards the back of the restaurant there is a door that leads to a small outdoor seating area situated in the shuk of Mahane Yehuda. There is quite a bit of additional seating upstairs, but most people seem to prefer sitting downstairs.
Although the atmosphere at Haba is pleasant, what’s really impressive is their cuisine. Haba’s breakfast menu is not extensive, but it has a lot of variety and the dishes are well thought out and presented with flair. Among the dishes are a healthy quinoa salad, shukshuka, and Trout Benedict (eggs benedict served on a bed of steamed spinach, toasted challah and trout accented with a delightful hollandaise sauce).
Haba’s menu for the afternoon and evening has a rich selection of Italian dishes. For a starter, we ordered the Baladi Eggplant which is roasted and deliciously seasoned. The eggplant is surrounded by dabs of tahini and harissa sauces and garnished with chopped tomatoes and chopped parsley. All this deliciousness is rounded off by a crispy, seasoned focaccia baked by the house
For our main courses we ordered the Open Lasagna and the Leek and Potato Latkes.
Haba’s lasagna, filled with swiss chard ragu and grilled zucchini, is baked in a savory, creamy tomato sauce and is topped with tarragon and pecorino cheeses. The lasagna is not heavy on the pasta, but the flavors are exquisite.
The leek and potato latkes are served with a healthy portion of mujaddara rice with lentils and leeks topped with a tasty yogurt sauce. The dish came out piping hot, and it was truly delectable.
Among Haba’s other offerings are pizzas and focaccias baked in the restaurant’s taboun, spinach fettuccine, the risotto of the day, cheese tortellini and salads to name a few.
Haba is famous for their breads, and their desserts looked mouthwatering, but we were stuffed by all the food, and we’ll have to taste those melt-in-your-mouth yummies on another visit.
The service at Haba was quite good. We were given menus very quickly, and the waitress returned soon after to take our orders. Everything arrived on time: our drinks, the first course and the main courses. The waiters and other staff were all extremely friendly and helpful. I must note that on the evening of our visit the restaurant was experiencing a very slow night (we noticed that there were very few people walking around downtown in comparison to usual).
During peak hours the restaurant gets really hopping, and it’s best to reserve a table ahead of time because otherwise you may have to wait to get seated.
Since Haba is downtown, finding parking on the street is extremely difficult. However, there are three large parking lots nearby – one is located under Mercaz Clal on Kiach St, the second one is on Agrippas St. and third one on Mordechai A’liash St.
(1 = poor 5 = Awesome)
Name of restaurant: Haba
Address: 119 Yafo St., Jerusalem
Hours: Sun-Thurs: 7AM-11PM | Fri 7AM-3PM
Kashrut: Jerusalem Rabbanat Mehadrin
It is always recommended to check the kashrut certificate and its expiration date
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See the list of all mehadrin restaurants in Jerusalem