This review originally appeared in 14850 Magazine and was republished with permission from the author.
CORTLAND, N.Y. – We’re delighted every time we have a chance to visit Pita Gourmet in downtown Cortland. Pita wraps and sandwiches are just a small part of the menu at this family-run eatery, which specializes in fresh and inexpensive Lebanese food in a casual atmosphere.
It was hard to decide on one or two appetizers, so a friend and I ordered two mazza combo appetizers. For each combo you get to pick three items from a list that includes hummus, baba ghanouj, stuffed grape leaves, tabouli, and falafel, and ordering two meant we got to try it all. Everything was fresh and tasty, with plenty of pita for dipping. The baba ghanouj, made from roasted eggplant, was probably the best of these, if I had to choose -- but I'm glad I didn't! The tabouli was especially piquant, to the point of hurting my tongue, and I also really enjoyed the falafel, lightly spiced vegetarian chick-pea "meatballs" served with shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, and a little tahini sauce.
We also split a Greek salad, a large but simple salad with lots of feta cheese and a delicious dressing full of herbs, and I had a kibbie wrap -- a large pita around traditional spiced lamb and bulghur meatballs, with lettuce, tomato, and a creamy yogurt sauce that was perfect for the sandwich. In the mood for a lighter meal, I would surely have been satisfied by this alone!
Sharing meant room for dessert, which I'm glad we tried. Pita Gourmet serves a perfect baklava, layered pastry, nuts, and honey, as well as a creamy, homemade rice pudding. Baklava is the best excuse for a meal at Pita Gourmet, but you'll find you won't need an excuse; it's even worth the drive up from Ithaca all by itself. We were also pleased with the rice pudding, served warm instead of right out of the refrigerator, with a dusting of cinnamon.
Try the Lebanese coffee, as well. Much like Turkish coffee, it's brewed on the stovetop from an extremely fine grind, then served strong, thick, and sweet in a small pot and tiny cups. The ultimate ending to a delicious dinner.
Middle-eastern fare is especially well suited to vegetarian dining, and if you stay away from some of the sauces, it's even largely vegan. For carnivores, the traditional lamb and chicken feature prominently on the menu, and there's beef as well, and for really picky kids of all ages, Pita Gourmet has added some American-style sandwiches to the menu.
Visit the Pita Gourmet on your way to live music or roller derby this summer! Plan on spending 8-15 bucks per person for a meal, or a little more if you're pretty thorough with appetizers, entree or wrap, dessert, and coffee. They're open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday at 41 Main Street in Cortland, check out pitagourmet.com, or call 607-756-4442.