When a chef from Jerusalem and a banker from Jordan decided to open a restaurant in Mahwah, they both knew exactly what they wanted it to do.
“We wanted to provide authentic Mediterranean cuisine to people in this area,” said Labib Faris, who moved to Northern Jersey from Jordan after high school.
“We grew up eating and making this food, so we know what it is supposed to taste like.”
With this idea in mind, Zaytoon Medierranean Cuisine opened about two months ago in the A&P Shopping Plaza on Franklin Turnpike, and is still celebrating its grand opening.
Rami Salman, the chef who has owned three other similar restaurants in and around Bergen County, said his recipes always use fresh ingredients and are made to order.
“I use old-fashioned recipes. A lot of them are from my mother and grandmother. We get the fresh ingredients because that’s the only way they taste right,” he said.
The restaurant’s name, Zaytoon, is an Arabic word meaning “olives.” It is indicative of some of the recipes, including hummus, falafel and kababs, that you can find at the restaurant.
The duo decided to bring this type of food to Mahwah because they say it is a niche that is missing from the area.
“It was missing a Middle Eastern touch, so we wanted to bring that,” Salman said.
“We wanted to give the people here a different kind of dining experience, and so far, the community has been very welcoming,” Faris added.
To add to the dining experience, Zaytoon has imported some décor – lanterns, dishes, etc. – from Mediterranean countries.
The menu, which Faris says is evolving as they try adding new recipes and soliciting feedback from customers, has a unique characteristic that is unlike many American recipes.
“Most of our dishes are light and healthy, so you don’t feel too full to move after you are finished. They are just satisfying,” Salman said.
“We like to make what we would want to eat; that’s the kind of food we want to be serving,” Faris added.
To view Zaytoon’s lunch, dinner, take-out and catering menus, visit www.zaytoonmahwah.com, call 201-252-8274, or stop by.