Eatery offers Roman feast beneath Jerusalem streets


JERUSALEM -- Under the Old City's streets there is evidence of an earlier city, the one ruled by the Roman Empire, where diners now can eat in ancient style and pilgrims can stop for a meaningful meal.

As was the Roman way, the Jerusalem of 2,000 years ago was marked by two major thoroughfares, one dividing the metropolis east from west and the other north from south. One of these main streets, called the Cardo, was discovered after Israel took possession of the Old City in 1967 and it has been unearthed by archaeologists and restored.

The Cardo is now under what is called the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Visitors walk on Italian marble slabs put in place by Roman construction crews who were building avenues lined with great pillars. The columns marked off areas that were used as market stalls, and today shops and restaurants have taken their place.

One eatery in particular offers a return to Caesarean meals. According to Shmuel Mantinband, owner of the Old City's Cardo Culinaria (he likes to be called Caesar), half a million customers were served in the Roman-style restaurant's first nine years, and another half-million are expected to arrive in the two years marking the turn of the millennium.

To meet budgetary concerns, the Culinaria is preparing a "Pilgrim" value menu for groups and large families. "For us," said Imam Tibi, an Arab resident of east Jerusalem and manager of the Cardo Culinaria, "the millennium has already started" with plans to give Christians a dining experience similar to what it might have been in Jesus' day.

The menu is based on the recipes of the Roman Caesar's chef Apicius, whose writings are considered to be the basis for modern cooking. "We go to great lengths to ensure that the ingredients used at the Cardo are almost exclusively limited to what was available in Judea 2,000 years ago," said Mantinband.

Prices are quoted at net to agents based on a group of 15 or more. Cake, soft drinks and beer are available upon request.

Cartoons of Romans in urgent need point the way to the lavatorium, and the vomitorium is equipped with requisite feathers.

The restaurant, which is kosher, is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. except for the Jewish Sabbath.

Cardo Culinaria, Address: 21 Habad St., Jerusalem, Israel 97500. Phone: (011) 972-2 626-4155. Fax: (011) 972-2 628-4238. E-mail: [email protected]

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