Tell them Henry sent you.
By, Shawnee Avila
I do not know Henry. I know someone who knows him. He told this someone about really great middle eastern food made by some really great people. He also said “when you go tell them Henry sent you”.
The sign on the building said Zeina’s Cafe. The handwritten note on the door said: Make sure to wish Albert a Happy Birthday. Walking in the first thing I noticed was the long open kitchen and then Layla of the husband and wife team that own the restaurant. “Hello! (She said with a huge smile) You called about the baklava”. I had called ahead to order baklava to go for Easter dinner. “Yes and um Henry sent me…”
Now I am not sure if it was because I evoked Henry’s name but as I waited for my order to be retrieved Layla started dolling out samples. A generous spoonful of cool creamy hummus, a tangy tightly rolled grape leaf with seasoned rice and lamb, a heap of juicy tabouli salad with a slice of fresh pita. While doing my best not to inhale the delicious treats I met her sons, wished her husband Albert a Happy Birthday, learned tidbits about their lives and sat happily on my stool feeling like I was a guest in their home.
Layla and Albert make my favorite kind of food. Delicious, fresh, bright and vibrant. It’s food that tastes alive, like it was made with love and like it has a story.
So after our family’s Easter dinner while we enjoyed the delicate baklava diamonds of sweet nutty gooey goodness and melt in your mouth layers of phyllo, I told a story. Only this time I started I the story by saying “tell them EatingUtica sent you”.