— by Laurel Fairworth
The Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia (IFF) is celebrating an important milestone from March 12 through April 3, 2016: two decades of showcasing the best movies from Israel and the Middle East. The IFF is the only independent non-profit Israeli film festival in the country. What started as a passion project has grown into an eagerly awaited cinematic occurrence.
In honor of the IFF’s 20th anniversary season, Giovani’s Bar and Grill, at 15th and Chestnut Streets in Center City, has concocted a dish called the Israeli “Big Picture” Shakshouka. For every platter ordered, which includes pita and Israeli chopped salad, the restaurant will make a donation to the film festival.
Shakshouka, a traditional Mediterranean dish, is made up of a spicy tomato sauce with the Middle Eastern herb and spice blend za’atar. The dish also contains paprika, parsley, garlic, feta, olives, onions, hot peppers and of course, perfectly poached eggs. Simon Atiya, his brother Ami and his brother-in-law Haim Atias have been running Giovani’s for more than a decade, and are excited that Israeli cuisine is finally catching on.
“This reminds us of home,” says Atias. “The hearty stew-like meal is often served at breakfast, but can really be enjoyed any time of the day.”
The Israeli Big Picture Shakshouka is not on the menu at Giovani’s, but it is available during the Israeli Film Festival’s run from March 12 through April 3. The dish must be requested and will be made fresh on the spot. Says festival founder Mindy Chiqui, “Watching movies from the Middle East can whet your appetite for foods from the same region.”