“You’ve got to try their grape leaves,” my friend Richard told me.
We did, and Joyce proclaimed that Eli Makhlouf makes the finest grape leaves she has ever tasted. Eli is the owner, operator and chef of Mezza, one of Cranston’s finest new restaurants, specializing in Lebanese and American dishes. He has been in the restaurant business since his college days in Boston and then on to more recent ventures, owning a pizzeria in Coventry and a year at Water’s Edge in Pawtuxet Village.
Eli recently opened Mezza at 1460 Oaklawn Ave. in the large 1500 block of stores and restaurants near Phred’s Drugs, a space recently occupied by a cupcakery/wine bar.
We enjoyed his Mezza Plate #1, which featured generous portions of three grape leaves, hummus and tabouleh, all prepared in house and as fresh and tasty as could be. A garnish of pickled cucumber and turnip come from Lebanon and were a fine addition to the plate, along with the pita bread ($9.95). For the same price, the Mezza Plate #2 substitutes babaganoush for the grape leaves. The entrée menu offers everything from Linguine Alfredo ($9.95) to surf and turf ($15.95), with most items, Lebanese and American, falling in the $12.95 range.
A Syrian man sitting at the next table told us, “This is as close to the way my mom made her dishes as I’ve ever had.”
I chose the lamb kabob, served with rice pilaf and steamed veggies. The tender lamb was marinated with fried onions, which gave it a sweet, savory taste. I never would have thought of cooking lamb with onions, but it blends beautifully.
Joyce chose the Chicken Schawarma, a chicken breast marinated in garlic, with a side of Eli’s homemade garlic sauce, creating another delicious taste. A Greek salad added to her enjoyment.
Mezza will occasionally serve leg of lamb as a special, a dish that Eli says requires tender and loving care to create properly.
Not only is the food served hot and tasty, but the colorful presentation caused us to sit and look at it before lifting our forks. Prices are quite reasonable, the food is cooked to order, and the portions are large enough to provide most of us with a delicious lunch the next day.
Mezza is closed Sunday and Monday so Eli can spend some time at his Warwick home with his two lovely daughters, who were seated in a back table doing their homework during our dinner.
Mezza is open for dinner Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fish and chips are a Friday special.