Much like “budget” and “terms and conditions,” the words “diet” and “nutrition” make my eyes glaze over as my brain takes a small vacation elsewhere until the moment has passed. But, it is pretty vital for our health — we are what we eat, so to speak.
According to a plethora of experts and other random people who publish stuff online, the most nutritious (read “healthy”) diet one could opt for is the Mediterranean diet; a selection of foods and preparation styles most commonly found in Greece, southern Italy and Spain. No, not the popular “Mediterranean diet” as touted by Dr. Oz., just various foods common to the area, such as fish, olives, eggplant and zucchini. Foods found at Laziza Mediterranean Grill in Evans.
Laziza is a popular restaurant near Publix on Washington Road that has become known as a wonderful spot for lunch or dinner. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 11.30 a.m.-9 p.m. and on Sunday from 11.30 a.m.-3 p.m. It offers authentic Mediterranean and middle-eastern fare including baba gannoush, tabbouleh salad and stuffed grape leaves.
After renovating the space previously inhabited by Quiznos, Laziza opened in September of 2011. The restaurant still looks bright and fresh four years on. I surmised this is helped in part by the kind of cleaning I witnessed while eating lunch there last week. It always makes me feel better when I see someone take the time to properly clean a table as soon as it’s unoccupied — yes, please do wipe that off and do it like you love the person about to eat there. This guy did and I was impressed.
It’s also a good sign when a restaurant recognizes different types of customers have different needs — while some can afford to sit a minute, others are stopping by to grab something they need to eat in the office. Laziza caters to everyone; eat in, order to go or find the Laziza food truck while you’re out and about. I opted to dine in because this was my first time eating at Laziza. I loved the mustard yellow walls, and the natural light pouring through the glass storefront totally convinced me I needed to sit down and take a load off.
Although you can seat yourself, food orders are placed at the counter. I get ridiculously nervous dealing with new things, so when I saw instructions on how to order posted on the wall I was instantly relieved. Ordering was easy. Mostly thanks to the smiling dude behind the counter who calmly and patiently explained each item to me as I ummed and aahed and generally took forever to order.
It was also easy because the process is broken down into three parts. First, you choose your “style” — that is, do you want your food to be in a pita wrap, on a platter, or a salad? Then it’s time to select the meat, fish or veggies that will fill that wrap, platter or salad. And last, it’s time to opt for a side. Customers are given a cup for their drinks, which are self-serve at a separate station next to the counter.
Entrees run between $8.49 and $9.99, but you can also order a la carte and choose individual items if you wish. This is true both in-house and if you order through their website — another bonus for folks who don’t have the time to wait.
I admit I found the menu daunting, and purely out of ignorance. I’m familiar with Mediterranean food, but have never gravitated toward it, though I can’t say why. And I’ve never had falafel before, which — according to my teenager — makes me something of a freak. But hey, I’m up for trying any dish at least once, so I chose a pita wrap filled with beef kebab and falafel as my side dish.
Apparently the hands-down fave is shawarma — a warm pita sandwich filled with shaved pieces of chicken, pickles, pickled turnips, tomatoes and a garlic sauce. Perhaps proof of its popularity, the shawarma was sold out by the time I arrived.
Other customer favorites include Baklava and crepes. Available as a snack for $4.99, crepes are thin pancakes filled with banana and Nutella, or with blueberry-lemon cheesecake and I made a mental note to try them after my entree.
The food is made fresh and it took about 15 minutes until I was served my wrap and falafel. Conveniently wrapped in foil to help contain the abundant filling, the pita wrap smelled and looked amazing. The falafel looked kinda like hush puppies and crab cakes had morphed together, though I discovered they’re actually fritters of chickpeas. The crunchy fritter is a wonderful contrast to the soft, savory chickpea filling which I swear had some cumin and coriander in there, though I may be wrong. Delicious!
The wrap was incredible. A fabulous concert of pickled veggies, seasoned beef and soft pita bread, it didn’t last long. I had been looking forward to tasting the beef, but I ended up loving the pickled veggies, too. I will extend a warning to anyone who goes wearing their Sunday best — be careful, I’ve heard the filling can fall out of the wrap and all over your lap. So, you (I) might want to wear a napkin or a bib while you’re (I’m) eating. Just sayin’.
And, going back to what I said earlier about the friendly, helpful, behind-the-counter dude, everyone from the kitchen who walked by asked if I liked my food or if I needed anything, which was very cool. In fact, everyone at Laziza seemed really nice and into working there, and that is definitely not something to be taken for granted.
Laziza also goes the extra mile by offering catering and that too can be ordered online. The catering menu offers the same appetizers and entrees available on the main menu for $11 per person; however, customized orders are also accepted. The only requirement is a catered group must be for a minimum of eight people.
By the time I was done with my wrap and the very more-ish falafel I didn’t have any room left for the crepes. Ugh. And though I had plowed through most of my lunch, I still had to take about a third of the wrap home with me. As the plate was set in front of me, I didn’t really considered just how much food you get with the pita wrap entrée, but it’s definitely a good sized portion.
As many before me have discovered, Laziza is a lovely little place to grab a bite. The service and menu is great, the food is delicious, the restaurant is accommodating in so many ways and it is open seven days a week. Children are also welcome and Laziza offers platters for kids priced at $4.99.
Hold onto your little gem, Columbia County, because I wouldn’t complain if they relocated down the road a little… like, closer to my house.