Our family life is currently in flux. Used to be we were together a lot. And by that I mean everyday. Dinner and bedtime. Weekly outings like swimming or the beach or extended family. Annual road trips. Those things rarely happen these days. With three young adults, we’ve all sort of scattered into various directions, so we don’t actually come together until the weekends, when we find time for meals and board games, conversations and bickering.
And birthdays. We try to find time to celebrate those together.
In the summers we have two: O’s is in July, and my husband’s is in August. Ideally, we’d go to two different restaurants for two different celebrations but these days it’s tough to have everyone be available at the same time so we do the best we can. This time, brunch was planned for Friday at Carmi’s Italian Cafe/Restaurant in the town that I live in. When I tried to make a reservation (in Israel, Friday is the weekend and most people don’t work. The cafes get crowded), I was told they don’t take reservations for the busiest day of the week.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in nine years of living here it’s that many times the answer ”No” actually means ”try harder”.
And so I asked again. And this time I got the response I wanted.
We arrived right on time to an empty restaurant with a big table in the middle with the word ”reserved” on it. I sat down smugly, satisfied with myself that I had thought to call ahead. Because you know if I hadn’t, we’d have waited an hour and a half for a table. Sweet.
Carmi’s used to be Big Apple Pizza and I was pretty bummed when what was the best pizza place in Modi’in shut its doors. As a cafe it’s been renovated to an airy space, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking its patio for outdoor dining.
I should make it clear right now that I don’t enjoy dining alfresco. Here in the Middle East that would mean dining and sweating 350 days a year or dining in a downpour ten days a year. So I’d rather not take my chances outside.
Give me climate control anytime of the year and I’m a happy puppy.
We brunched. The birthday girl and I split a mushroom pizza and a sweet potato salad. The pizza was tasty, doughy, with the right amount of cheese. The yams were soft and sweet, the lettuce cut into slightly too-big pieces with a simple dressing. T. had the mozzarella salad with a pesto dressing that was quite refreshing. L. had the onion soup, which was slightly sweet and had a nicely toasted crouton with parmesan cheese to contrast with the sweetness of the soup. Finally, the birthday husband’s focaccacia was smothered in pesto, pine nuts, whole roasted garlic cloves and more mozzarella cheese for sharp-tasting, carb-filled yumminess.
During the meal I managed to whatsapp a message to T., sitting across from me to order dessert with a sparkler, even though both birthdays were in the past. Late celebrations are still good celebrations. The lovely waitress showed up with two good choices: Tiramisu and Hot Chocolate Cake. The chocolate cake literally melted in your mouth and the Tiramisu had just the right coffee creaminess, although it did not have that hit of liqueur that can be so enjoyable.
Family life changes. Sometimes I feel wistful for the old days and I miss that togetherness. But would we have it any other way? The girls are off, exploring and learning how to be adults (I hope they share what they learn with me, because honestly, I haven’t really figured it out yet).
As long as we manage to celebrate every now and then, I’m good.
Carmi’s Italian Cafe & Restaurant is located at Chativat Golani 9 (Solomon Center) in Modi’in. Phone number: 08-975-6000. Prices were low-moderate at an average 75 shekel pp (about 20 dollars) which included an entree, drinks, and two shared desserts for 5 adults.