Laziza Mediterranean Restaurant in Kent offered a cozy respite from a cold winter night recently when my husband and I indulged in spicy and delicious Lebanese dishes.
The spacious two-story restaurant is celebrating a decade of business this month.
My husband, Steve, and I sat downstairs on the same floor with the elegant bar with the purple Laziza sign and red bows on the back of the seats. We also had a good overview of the many niches where the restaurant displays Middle Eastern collectibles ranging from a decorative hookah or hookah to a sword in a gold broom mantle.
We started with drinks. Steve chose a Gentleman’s Cosmo ($ 8), a sweet blend made with Maker’s Mark, Disaronno Amaretto, fresh lemon juice and cranberry juice. I decided on a Tilla Malbec from Mendozza, Argentina ($ 8), in anticipation of how well it would fit with a selection of beef. The restaurant has recently redesigned its extensive drinks menu, which includes characteristic martinis, handmade cocktails, wines, beers and dessert drinks.
Delicious appetizers started our meal with flair, especially half a pound of fried mussels sautéed with peppers and onions, tossed in a delicious orange sauce with a sweetness that comes from toasted coconut sauce.
Chef Cole Macken makes his special sauce a day in advance and adds sun-dried tomatoes after tossing the mussels, said owner Michael Awad.
“I have to tell you, people drink it there. It’s amazing,” he said of the mouth-watering broth that customers dip in with its accompanying crostini.
We also enjoyed an appetizer of baba ghanoush, roasted eggplant mixed with garlic, tahini and lemon juice ($ 8). The traditional Lebanese appetizer came with pita bread, but we also added freshly grilled, hot naan-bred ($ 3), a thicker, more pillow-like bread choice.
Awad and his wife, Nicole, whose Laziza was the first restaurant to open in Kent’s downtown redevelopment in 2012, previously owned the Main Street Continental Grill, among other restaurants, in Kent.
Awad, who is of Palestinian descent, conceived Laziza with predominantly Lebanese food, as his wife is of Lebanese descent.
“Between her and my mother-in-law, most of the menu was created around them,” Awad said of his wife and mother-in-law, Antoinette Jabbour.
He and his wife run the restaurant as a family affair, with Nicole tending the bar one recent Wednesday night while Awad and their sons worked at a party upstairs. Nadim, 19, is a server, and Ibrahim, 16, is a bus boy.
The restaurant does a lot of catering and special events, as well as feeds Kent State University football teams regularly, Awad said.
I opted for some more comfort food for dinner with a cup of lentil soup ($ 5). The consistency was similar to that of split pea soup. The hot and spicy dish is a Palestinian offering, said Awad, who uses a traditional family recipe from his late father.
The spice comes from a Lebanese seven-spice blend, which mostly contains cumin, for the soup, Awad said.
The Lebanese mix of seven spices, also called “baharat”, the Arabic word for spices, also made my beef shawarma entree ($ 20) exciting. This fragrant dish features spicy beef with caramelized onions over basmati rice, served with olive oil-soured green beans.
Laziza’s beef shawarma started with a sweet taste, followed by a good kick with its spicy aftertaste, a sensation I enjoyed. Its blend of spices includes cumin, cilantro, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, nutmeg and whole cloves, according to Awad.
I ordered my beef shawarma medium rare, and Steve did the same for his beef kebab, which features grilled beef tenderloin with peppers and onions. His dish was also served with basmati rice, with a side of zucchini and squash.
Steve, who enjoyed the grilled flavor, said the meat was well seasoned and juicy.
Our bill for the evening came out to $ 88 before tax and gratuity. Steve and I agreed that it was fun to eat Lebanese food brought to an elevated level at Laziza, a restaurant that is both comfortable and exclusive with its white linens and rolled silverware. We return to explore more of the menu, which includes steaks, seafood, pasta, burgers and Mediterranean wraps.
Food and Art and author Kerry Clawson can be contacted at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com.
Address: 195 Erie St., Kent
Hours: 3pm to 9pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday; 15:00 to 22:00 Friday-Saturday
Delivery: Via Doordash
Information: yourlaziza.com, yourlaziza on Facebook