America’s Best Pita, since 1970
Aladdin’s Baking Co. was founded by two brothers, Carl and Gus Nahra, and their cousin Maurice Abood in 1970. As young Lebanese immigrants, they aspired to contribute something uniquely healthy to their new country that they loved so dearly. While they had limited financial means, they were intimately familiar with the Lebanese and broader Mediterranean cuisine. Carl and Gus had cut their teeth at both restaurants and large food corporations. Maurice ran a popular deli and grocery with his father in the heart of Beirut. And all three were raised in typical Lebanese households where recipes passed from generation to generation like treasured heirlooms. Indeed, their path to the American Dream seemed predestined. Now there was only that little matter of achieving it.
At the outset every pita was made by hand. This was a fine process and a much welcomed addition to the contemporary offerings that serviced Cleveland’s Arabic community. But if the three men wanted to expand the culinary tastes of the general Cleveland public, they would have to find a way of automating pita production while retaining the authenticity of the sort that would please their sittoo (grandmother). Within a few years, their hard work and frugality afforded them an opportunity to buy one modest machine. Luckily, they had an uncle who held esoteric, some say mystical, secrets in pita production. He helped them create the same incomparable pita they always had, but now at a scale that could reach those in the Cleveland suburbs. Perhaps there was a bit of culture shock. Those unfamiliar may have either thought pita was an exotic delicacy eaten by King Farouk; an atavistic relic of biblical lands consumed by Jesus, Moses, and Mohammad; or simply a strange food whose geometry resembled a Frisbee. In a sense, all these impressions were right. Educating the public involved no lectures, but faith that upon trying a pita, one would fall in love as countless others did for millennia in a faraway world that had now come to Cleveland.
Today, Aladdin’s Baking Co. is a Cleveland landmark. A single production machine led to many. Millions of pitas have rolled off the line, each one imbued with the same authenticity as the very first. No longer are the suburbs the frontier, but other regions of the country. Here in Cleveland, parents have raised children who know pita bread better than conventional sliced bread. Indeed, the three young Lebanese men achieved their American dream, and they reciprocated with unending gratitude and charitable contributions to the Cleveland community.
As you may have gathered, the three young men who founded the company over fifty years ago are no longer young men. But they are delighted that the tradition they established has now passed to their sons. Having grown up with the business, the new generation aspires to honor the legacy of their fathers. Because at its essence, Aladdin’s Baking Co. is more than pitas or any type of food. As it was, it shall remain: Passion is what animates, Integrity is what maintains, and Family is what bounds it all together.
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