At The Hummus & Pita Co., a Masterful Balance of Mediterranean Authenticity and Americanization

Origin story: The Hummus & Pita Co.’s Chelsea location is the growing franchise’s first. | Photo by Scott Stiffler

BY SELAH ILUNGA-REED | Open for business in Chelsea since 2012, The Hummus & Pita Co.’s. Sixth Avenue staying power and ability to branch out across town and country comes down to its always fresh, generously dispensed ingredients. Although you can’t go wrong anchoring your meal with the two classics used to create its name, The Hummus & Pita Co.’s melting pot menu is packed with the kind of rich rewards that convert creatures of habit into anything-goes culinary explorers. The source of that confidence comes from the lineage of company founder Dave Pesso, with the help of his mother and her log of authentic family recipes.

Close by in case duty calls: Founder Dave Pesso, just feet away from the restaurant’s bustling kitchen. | Photo by Selah Ilunga-Reed

Pesso’s maternal side originates in Israel and eastern Europe, and his father is from Greece, meaning Pesso’s Brooklyn upbringing was abundant with an international medley of cuisines and cultures. His hope in founding the restaurant was securing a place at the table for the Mediterranean flavor palette, and appealing to fast-paced New Yorkers who want a quick, healthy bite.

“When I was a kid, my mother would have to take two buses and a train to a specialty store to buy hummus, to where now it’s hundreds of different flavors and brands, the supermarket’s full of it,” notes Pesso, on the increased awareness of Mediterranean cuisine over the years.

Ordering at the Hummus & Pita Co. is a guided experience where the customer takes the wheel. | Photo by Selah Ilunga-Reed

The Hummus & Pita Co. focuses on making Mediterranean-American food available for a wide range of diets. “We try to make our menu accessible and good for everybody” said Pesso, before noting the vegan options the restaurant has created for classics like chicken shawarma and Turkish meatballs. The restaurant tries to “focus on people’s dietary restrictions and allergies.” When asked what he recommends a newcomer to order, Pesso answered without a moment’s pause: “The chicken shawarma is ridiculous,” he said, and he’s not mistaken. Another one of their much-lauded menu items is the chickpea milkshake, an icon among vegan eaters (and drinkers). Pesso proudly noted that the restaurant has been shipping the shake nationwide since its very first days.

Though a hotspot for vegans, the slab of meat upon arrival sends a different message about the restaurant’s choices. | Photo by Selah Ilunga-Reed

The Hummus & Pita Co.’s focus on health definitely broadens its customer base. “The best part of our brand and our company is that more than half the people that come to our restaurant don’t come because it’s Mediterranean, they come because it’s healthy, delicious, good food,” remarked Pesso. In fact, the founder emphasized his desire to appeal more to the “American palette” that most of his customers have. “The main part of our brand is we wanted it to be American. The only ethnic part we wanted was the authenticity in the recipes and food,” said Pesso, on mastering the fine balance of authenticity and Americanization.

The recipes the restaurant uses are indubitably rooted in original Mediterranean cuisine. An emphasis on fresh, local produce, and originally sourced spices bring the flavors of the menu out all the more. In addition, the processes used in the kitchen draw on traditional methods of cooking and seasoning. For example, Pesso mentioned the soaking process for the chickpeas each batch of fresh hummus requires, noting how the authenticity of the recipes goes all the way back into the kitchen.

As for the concept itself, The Hummus & Pita Co.’s fusion of quality ingredients, skilled preparation, and impressive turnaround time has proven a recipe for success–in the form of expansion. The company currently has second and third Manhattan locations in Tribeca (76 Chambers St.) and the Upper East Side (215 E, 86th St.), with a presence in Connecticut, Michigan, and Ohio. In the future, they hope to put some roots down in Los Angeles or the Pacific Northwest. So if you find a chance conversation with friends on the West Cost veers into the area of what constitutes a truly original take on Mediterranean cuisine, break it to them gently that there’s only one place in the world where the Co. in question first set up shop: Chelsea.

The Hummus & Pita Co.’s Chelsea location is at 585 Sixth Ave. (btw. 16& 17 sts.). Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11am-10pm and Sun., 11am-9pm. Call 212-510-7405. To view the menu, click here.

 

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