Tel Aviv’s ‘Pita Nazi’
Sabich, the ultimate Israeli street food, has made a legend out of quirky store-owner Oved Daniel
The question is, do Ben-Tov and Shary have them? “I gave them all the instructions and guidance they need. If they succeed in getting the flavor even 80 percent right, that’s good enough,” said Oved with typical modesty. Still, many find the fact that Oved’s name is now attached to a place other than his own snack-bar quite shocking, if not outright blasphemous, but you can’t blame a man for keeping his word. “I promised,” is Oved’s rationale for his surprising business expansion. “I know their families and I have known them since they were kids. They talked about opening a branch for years and I always told them, if you’re serious and find a place, we’ll do it. They proved that they were serious, so I had to keep my promise.”
A visit to Oved’s new branch four days after the opening revealed obvious similarities to the original store in Givatayim, like steamed pitas (Oved’s method of keeping them warm and soft) and young vendors attempting the classic Oved lingo rather nervously. “Before we opened I was worried sick,” said Ben-Tov, 23, regarding the immense pressure of filling Oved’s shoes. “I felt pains in my chest and couldn’t sleep. But now I’m not nervous anymore. Oved himself came by and was happy, so I’m more relaxed now. His feedback obviously is the most important to us. Our goal is to make Oved proud.”
Some of the customers I met at the new branch were students from the nearby Ironi Alef high school, who seemed happy with the product. Customers who came to compare new-Oved with original-Oved were less impressed. “The arrangement inside the pita isn’t very good,” complained Aya Cohen from Givatayim. “My mana wasn’t harmonious, all the eggs were at the bottom. Also, the eggplant was too seedy and too dry. All in all, it wasn’t bad but Oved needs to come over for some fine-tuning.”
Sefi Zisling from Tel Aviv was more optimistic: “I’m not flying at the moment like after eating at Oved’s, but it was nice. There’s room for improvement and I think it’s too early to tell. These guys need to gain confidence, and obviously that takes time. People like eating at Oved’s because he creates a certain kind of atmosphere. He makes you feel like he’s giving you love inside a pita. That’s what they need to learn.”
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