Hamsa serves modern Israeli cuisine in Rice Village

  • August 12, 2023
The number five is kind of a big deal at 5555 Morningside Drive, the address for modern-Israeli restaurant Hamsa—which, translated in Arabic, means five. Hamsa is also known as an ancient Islamic and Jewish symbol for the Fatima hand, which symbolizes protection, health and good fortune.

It’s no coincidence that co-founder and CEO Itai Ben Eli decided to open Hamsa in 2022 in the fifth month of the year. The opening came two years after Ben Eli originally leased the space, right before a global pandemic shut down businesses in 2020.

“It’s all a blessing. I believe that we opened at the right time,” Ben Eli said.

What’s special about it?

Step into the restaurant, and the ambiance, designed by Ben Eli’s wife, takes diners to an upscale European dining room with colorful interior and modern furniture.

Dining at Hamsa, Ben Eli said, means a variety of items on a jam-packed table where different flavors, textures and temperatures come together. Cocktails and wine options have a Middle Eastern twist if they’re not originally sourced from the region. He stressed it’s not only about what food is being served at Hamsa, but also how food is eaten: family style.

Why we love it

Ben Eli said the term “Israeli cuisine” is broad.

“Israel has so many different nationalities and types of cuisine in one melting pot,” he said.

Guests can expect food flavors and techniques inspired from the Middle East’s Levant region, which includes Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Northern Africa. Ingredients used in many menu items include olive oil, chickpeas and many spices as well as Turkish, Greek and Eastern European influences.

“It’s really all across the Mediterranean,” Ben Eli said.

What’s on the menu

Items vary across dinner and lunch menus. For both lunch and dinner, diners can pick

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USF Botanical Gardens offer peaceful, quiet retreat

  • October 12, 2022

Looking for peace and quiet? A retreat away from the busy day-to-day life?

Look no further than the USF Botanical Gardens.

Nestled right on the edge of the University of South Florida campus, the gardens are sure to make you forget that Fowler Avenue is just steps away.

“I was pretty amazed to see something like this at USF. A lot of people don’t know that we’re here. And the more I introduce students to it, the more they have a similar reaction where they’re like, oh, we have like a little oasis here where we can come and study; where we can come and relax,” explained Angelika Kirkham.

The property is about 16 acres and features more than 3,000 plants and a bustling butterfly garden.

It’s all mainly taken care of by volunteers and USF students.

“I was drawn to our education programs. We are growing food for a food bank in town via some of our classes. We’ve got kids’ activities and educational projects when they get here. And putting plants in people’s yards and homes is a great way to help them with their psychological well-being. Bring them joy, help them develop empathy for other living things,” explained Hayley Victoria, USF student.

The gardens feature a lot of education programs on campus, including growing your own food and bee-keeping.

The public can visit anytime, but its annual Fall Festival on October 8 and 9 is a perfect time to come.

Parking is free, but there is an admission charge of $5.

You can read more about their events and how to visit by clicking here.

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