Monday 1 April 2019

Tel-Aviv Tales 2 - Sweet Story On Matalon Street

Matalon Street is adjacent to Lewinsky, home of the famous shuk of the same name. Whilst the shuk is home to shops selling spices, herbs, olives, pastries and coffee, Matalon is the place to find everything you need for a party, not least costumes. I have passed along this street many times but only recently did I notice a small shop front with a sign behind the window reading Konditoriah Albert, 1935. 

My curiosity was aroused by the possibility of seeing a piece of Tel-Aviv history and the potential for indulging my well known passion for all things sweet. Unfortunately Albert was closed. I tried again the following day still with no luck and began to worry that the shop had ceased trading. I decided to try once more. It was a case of third time lucky and to my delight I stepped into a world that has not changed in decades. The walls were covered with press cuttings about the shop as well as photographs of impressive, smartly dressed men and women from a world that no longer exists - Saloniki in the years before the Second World War Most striking of all was a faded, sepia picture of a woman with a serious expression and large, haunting eyes and wearing a traditional Greek head covering.

I was soon to find out that the woman in the picture was the mother of Albert Yehuda who brought his family from Saloniki to Tel-Aviv in 1935. The family initially settled in the Florentin neighbourhood where he established his famous Konditoriah that 84 years later still bears his name. The business relocated to its current location in the early 1960s and is today managed by Albert's son Yakov together with his wife Lavana.  I was able to spend a little time talking to Lavana who explained that only the best natural ingredients are used to make their confectionery and that everything is made on the premises and that their processes are the same ones Albert followed back in the 1930's. Whilst she was speaking, Yehuda was hard at work in the kitchen whilst her brother carefully removed the skins of hundreds of almonds preparing them for use in their various products. Many sweet treats are on offer here including a Greek version of Kadaif, made with nuts and the famous Marzipan Kisses - two boxes of which I managed to consume over a few days. Addictive. I also enjoyed the orange jellies that I bought on my first visit to Albert's.

Albert Yehuda came to pre-state Israel because he wanted his. family to be part of the re-emerging Jewish state. Lavana assured me that both her family and that of her husband came for purely positive reasons but throughout the 1930's many Greek Jews were to leave the country of their birth due to rising nationalism which on occasion turned violent. In July 1931 at least one person was killed and many Jewish families were left homeless in Saloniki when the city's Campbell district was attacked by 2000 rioters over a period of four days. Following this, many Jews left for Eretz Israel, Haifa in particular where they sought works in the docks.

Whilst talking to Lavana we break off regularly so that she can deal with the steady flow of customers who come in person or who call in their orders by telephone. A number of businesses in the neighbouring streets are owned by families that came from Greece but Albert's is almost certainly the last Greek konditoriah in Tel-Aviv (if not in all Israel) and a real piece of the city's history.

You can see more pictures from Israel here.

1 comment:

  1. I knew about the Greek version of Kadaif, made with nuts and marzipan, and I remember Konditoriah Albert fondly. But I don't think I knew that the family was Greek. And I had forgotten about the appalling Saloniki riot of 1931. The Saloniki community treated us beautifully when we were there, many decades ago :)