Pack your own pita

Colorful downtown eatery brings healthful freshness to fast food

PIT CREW Pita Pit server Breinne Cavanagh packs a mean pocket for the lunchtime crowd.

PIT CREW Pita Pit server Breinne Cavanagh packs a mean pocket for the lunchtime crowd.

Photo By Tom Angel

Putting in the hours: The Pita Pit, 240 Broadway in downtown Chico, is open Sun. & Mon. 11 a.m.-midnight, Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Phone: 899-2847.

It may not offer bangled belly dancers, but The Pita Pit in downtown Chico sure can pack a pita, offering a Westernized version of a traditional Middle-Eastern staple.

We’d had our eye on the Pita Pit since it opened last August, but we only recently found the time to try it out. We liked our pitas so much we went back for more just a few days later.

Part of the allure of the Pita Pit lies in the myriad choices you get to make. Once you’ve decided on your main filling, which could be anything from chicken to avocado to seafood to hummus (there are 22 choices, with prices ranging from 75 cents to $5.50), you then proceed to the next station, where you choose any combination of veggies and other goodies, such as tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, sprouts (and much more). If you want your veggies grilled, just ask. If you want a very strange combination of items, they won’t blink an eye.

You also get to select a sauce for your pita. Some of the sauces you’ve heard of, such as ranch dressing and honey mustard sauce. Others are more traditional, such as tzatziki, and still others are just plain fun, such as mango sauce. While you are making these choices, you are standing behind a glass wall, which allows you to watch the pita-makers deftly fold your ingredients into your pita. Every pita served at The Pita Pit is an expression of the customer who has ordered it.

According to owner Mike Dakof, who along with son Jay Dakof can be found behind the counter of the new restaurant just about any day of the week, The Pita Pit has quickly drawn a sizable downtown businessfolk following as well as a large Chico State student contingent.

“Even the high-school kids come here for lunch,” he said, “only they don’t eat the vegetables!” He said younger kids, too, love to visit The Pita Pit, no doubt because of the creativity they get to exercise in building their pitas, and some of them have invented the “Pita-Dia,” which is pita bread with cheese melted inside.

My first Pita Pit pita started with chicken and avocado. To that I added olives, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, and grilled peppers and mushrooms along with a splash of honey mustard sauce. My luncheon partner had the hummus pita with olives, cukes, sprouts, tomato, grilled peppers and mushrooms, Swiss cheese and honey mustard sauce. We completely enjoyed them.

While The Pita Pit can qualify as “fast food,” it is fast food of a different ilk—healthful and good for you. With “supersize me” concerns, more and more people are gravitating toward more nutritionally sound food choices.

I did have an interesting conversation about The Pita Pit with my friend Ali, who works at the Radio Shack on Mangrove. Ali is a Palestinian who grew up in the Middle East, so he knows the real deal when it comes to pitas. He said that, while he found The Pita Pit’s pitas healthful and fresh, he thought they were a bit lacking in “ethnicity.” He wanted a bit more of the traditional spices and other flavorings that one would experience back home.

Undoubtedly, The Pita Pit franchise owners have developed their product with Western customers in mind; however, they might consider having more Middle-Eastern spices on hand for those customers who do desire more “ethnicity” in their pita. Ali said it also might be nice if they would create more of an authentic atmosphere by playing traditional Middle-Eastern music.

In any event, The Pita Pit comprises a nice addition to downtown eating establishments. The interior is lively and bright, with fun paintings of vegetables that have faces (which kids will adore). They also offer delivery, so if you’re ordering in some night or for a business meeting, forget the pizza—get a pita instead.