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The Beach Gourmet:

Many years ago I enjoyed a trek that took me around the Mediterranean and North Africa. During this tour I experienced a mosaic of cultures, languages, and of course culinary concepts of many a colorful kind. I remember being in the city of Alexandria, in Egypt, and enjoying king-sized kebobs served by enthusiastic street vendors who all claimed that Egypt was the origin of these kinds of dishes. As my travels extended to other parts however, I heard exactly the same claim made by Turks, Greeks, Lebanese, Cypriots, in fact virtually every place that a pita bread could be procured, so when I recently visited Bella Pita in Westwood, I almost expected to be (reliably) informed that these “traditional” recipes were “first formulated in Los Angeles, honestly!” But, that was not to be the case. I was however, to experience a part nostalgic, part novel, pita-tasting sojourn, that was a lot of the old as I remembered it, and a sprinkling of the new, or fusion of flavors, if you will.

Bella Pita, run by the husband and wife team of Medy and Cheryl Sanadidi (Medy hails from Egypt, by the way) is almost a street vendors’ stall in residence. A small counter, an active open kitchen, a salad and condiment bar, and a handful of stools positioned against a window eating strip, make it a preferred “to go” establishment, rather than a “let’s get dressed for dinner” ideal. I chose to claim one of the stools and perused the predominantly pita, and wowshi menu.

I decided to try something traditional, something that I could relate to, as well as a dish that was new to my palate, so I ordered one Lamb Pita ($6.50), and a Black Bean Wowshi ($4.25). The Lamb Pita arrived first, and so I took it to the salad and condiment bar and added some humus, tahini, and their very own stimulus package that they simply call “really hot sauce,” and it certainly had a bite to it, for sure The slithers of lamb were fresh, and delightfully flavored with a herb mixture that the staff would only tell me was “secret.” It did, however suitably compliment the meat without overpowering the natural flavor. Add the salad ingredients, and Viola! I was back in Alexandria.

The wowshi (Pita, folded like a pie, stuffed with savory fillings and baked to order) was a unique experience and possessed a rainbow of flavors that suggested a “south of the border” influenced Middle Eastern dish. These unique “pie style” pitas are also available in chicken ($5.25), burger ($5.25), cheese ($4.25) and breakfast (omelet with parsley, onions, black beans, and cheese, $4.50) versions, also.

Bella Pita is a really cool place to visit for a healthy and inexpensive meal or snack, either to-go, or sit in, and although I very much doubt that Westwood, California is the birthplace of the pita dish, this cute little café certainly served me some Mediterranean food that I will describe as ‘authentically original!”One last thing, they tend to close for the holidays because of their reliance on the studious element of Westwood, so look for them to re-open in early January.

Contact Tim Broughton

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