The famous Israeli hospitality is in full swing at Nava’s Grill, where even a first timer feels like a long-lost relative. Mezze appetizers are whisked to the table as soon as guests are seated, and owner Nava Kaufman offers hugs and conversation along with food.
The décor is nondescript except for a wall mural, but the animated atmosphere and fresh food more than make up for it. Nava is from Be’er Sheva, a city on the edge of the Negev Desert in southern Israel where she learned to cook from her mom. She married at 17 and went on to open two restaurants. When her oldest son, an aspiring tennis player, wanted to train at Chris Evert’s academy in Boca Raton 15 years ago, the family went with him. After managing buildings, Nava got back into the restaurant business in Coral Springs, and last year moved the eatery to Hollywood.
At sundown on Fridays, she starts the cholent – brisket, pearl barley, potatoes and beans – that simmers overnight. Other Shabat tova (Saturday-only) dishes are shakshouka (eggs poached in thick tomato sauce with peppers, onions and garlic), herb omelet and Tunisian borek (puff pastry triangles stuffed with a paste of hard-cooked egg and spices). There’s also Yemenite malawach (fried pastry dough pancakes) and jachnun, Sabbath bread, baked overnight in a low oven, that is torn and eaten with grated tomato dip and eggs.
Nava’s husband, Morris, is of Polish descent but grew up in Peru, so there’s also ceviche, yuca fries, plantains and lomo saltado (stir-fried steak strips with fries). Chocolate mousse cake is almost as sweet as Nava herself.