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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Tel Aviv, Israel: Shove A Bocca Bocca In Your Pie Hole

Bocca Bocca (aka Streetily)
HaCarmel 40, Tel Aviv, Israel
Carmel Market (Shuk Ha'Carmel)
Italian, Fast Food, Street Food
Phone: +972 52-391-3233

In the midst of Shuk Ha'Carmel, aka the Carmel Market, and its hundreds of street stalls full of baklava, colorful spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, and everything else imaginable, you will find Bocca Bocca if you look hard enough.

"Bocca" is Italian for "mouth" and Enzo, originally from Rome, immigrated to Israel 30 years ago, coming to love pita bread stuffed with meat, falafel, vegetables and other assorted delicacies, but he missed his native cuisine. He decided to create an Italian style pita, using a homemade focaccia based on his grandmother's recipe instead of pita bread. That is how he created Bocca Bocca.
Bocca is Italian for pie hole, I mean mouth, and Bocca Bocca sits well behind the stalls, occupying a tiny corner of building on Ha'Carmel Street in central Tel Aviv. Even with Google Maps, we passed right by and nearly missed it, finally spotting their sign. 

The menu is as small as the establishment, a good thing, especially considering the size of the place. There are a selection of eight or nine sandwich (panino in Italian) options, arancini (fried rice balls), drinks and dessert with a pint of local draft beer, which is pretty damn good by the way, coming in at a mere ₪15 ($4).
The focaccia is large and thick, sliced in half diagonally, creating a triangular loaf which is then sliced in the center in order to stuff the contents (meatballs Bolognese, roast beef, chicken and mushrooms, chicken pizzaiola, peperonata, etc.) inside. It is then toasted and served on a paper plate, this is fast food folks, propped up using a clear acrylic device that looks like it was designed for this specific purpose.
I ordered the "Roast Beef" version (₪49/$13.15) and my wife the "Chicken Funghi" (chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce with rosemary - ₪39/$10.50) as well as an order of Arancini (₪20/$5.40) in addition to my beer and a Coca Cola (₪8/$2) for the war department. We each ate half of each sandwich, swapping mid-panino, with my wife preferring the chicken and I the roast beast. They were both tasty, accompanied by a very small side salad of mixed greens in a simple olive oil and lemon dressing and a smattering of crispy, deep fried onion straws.

The arancini were also homemade, using breadcrumbs from the leftover focaccia we were told, served four to a plate with a dab of pesto for dipping. They were crispy and tasty, a good value at $5.40 for the four of them.
The prices were not bad by Tel Aviv standards, but I did not understand the price differences on the menu, so I asked Enzo. Each panino has two prices listed, most differing by ₪9 (29/38) and the roast beef by ₪13 (36/49). Enzo told me that the lower price was for a panino alone and the higher for a "plate" (a tiny side salad and a few onion straws on a paper plate). If that is the case, why would there be a price difference between the roast beef and other sandwiches I might ask. It made no sense to me. Additionally, had I the choice, and I was not given one when ordering, I would have chosen to forego the paper plate version, saving ₪22 or nearly $6 in the process. 

Enzo asked me to write a review on TripAdvisor, telling me that he wanted the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so I will relay my only other concerns here. 
The sandwiches were mostly bread with a minimal amount of content of your choice stuffed inside the small slit in the focaccia. For $10-$13 a pop, I would recommend that the focaccia be a bit larger and thinner and the contents a bit more robust. The last few bites of the panini were mostly bread whereas a good sandwich would include the contents in every last bit. I understand the "pita concept" as applied here, but it seems to be a drawback when translated to the Italian version. Instead of the salad and onion straws, customers should be given a choice of side order for the price difference, some fries, onion rings, or potato chips perhaps.

The sandwich contents, including chicken and beef products, sat uncovered out in the open in saucepans with no visible means of heat conduction, no knowing how long they had been sitting out there. I operated a very successful mobile food operation in the U.S. where health standards require food to be covered or wrapped and either refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less or  140 degrees Fahrenheit or more. The contents of saucepans did not appear to be anywhere near the 140 degree threshold, causing me some concern for potential food poisoning.

My other concern was food handling. Enzo's very friendly and self-proclaimed Israeli Casanova assistant prepared the panini (the plural for panino by the way) using his bare hands. I will give him the benefit of the doubt as he could have possibly been washing his hands with hot water and soap when he disappeared into the kitchen from time to time, but I highly doubt it. Touching counters, utensils, noses and other even more disgusting anatomical possibilities without washing is a big problem, so proper food handling hygiene might be considered at all times. Here it is the next day and my wife and I are no worse for wear, so maybe the food was at proper temperature and Casanova may have been washing his hands when needed, but we will never know for sure.

In conclusion, we had a decent meal at Bocca Bocca for under ₪130/$35, including tip, a relative bargain in Tel Aviv where everything is expensive. Enzo graciously offered us a digestivo on the house, a very small plastic cup of homemade limoncello, before departing. He is very friendly, at least trilingual (Italian, English and Hebrew), and a smart entrepreneur looking for franchisees in the United States. His franchise name would be Streetily (street/Italy) in the U.S. and this is a concept that could do quite well with a few minor tweaks, so if you are interested in a franchise, contact me and I will put you in touch with Enzo.

CombatCritic Gives Bocca Bocca 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Seven Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "Shits & Grins"

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Title: Tel Aviv, Israel: Shove A Bocca Bocca In Your Pie Hole

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