Wrap sheet

Co-owner Ali Ghafary of Wrap It Up prepares the mixed shawarma wrap.

Co-owner Ali Ghafary of Wrap It Up prepares the mixed shawarma wrap.

Photo/Allison Young

Wrap It Up is open Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sun, noon to 5 p.m.

In the spandex-clad, aerobics-infused Southern California of the early ’80s, “healthy option” sandwich wraps began their climb toward near ubiquity in modern American cuisine. Wraps are actually on par with their bread-based cousins for calories and carbs, but don’t tell the workout wonks.

Wraps in various forms have been a favorite among Mexicans, Armenians, Greeks, Turks, Kurds and Lebanese for a long time, with striking similarity in construction. Start with unleavened flatbread (tortilla, lavash, pita), add some meat, veggies and sauce, then wrap it up and dig in. Simple, portable, satisfying.

Wrap It Up, located in a south-Reno strip-mall, offers little by way of ambience. It’s a quick-service lunch and light-dinner business, clean and decorated in “yes, we have food and soda” signage, but nothing to write home about. The staff and owners are very friendly and hospitable, making for a perfectly acceptable “grab a quick bite to eat while shopping” spot.

The menu states “Mediterranean,” which in this instance means a mashup of Lebanese, Greek, Turk and Arabic foods. I’ve enjoyed all of the above at various times in various places, so I was definitely interested in sampling a variety. Frankly, the best/worst thing about writing food reviews is my compulsion to sample as much as I can in order to give a complete report.

Vertical, rotating spit-roasted meat that is served thin-shaved has many names. gyros in Greece, doner kebab in Turkey, shawarma in the Levant, tacos al pastor in Mexico, etc. In Reno, it’s difficult to find a place that serves a related cuisine that actually employs the real deal. Most often I’ve been served “gyros” featuring microwaved, pre-packaged strips of hopefully-lamb-but-who-knows meat. My compliments to Wrap It Up for cooking their shawarma on a spit/kebab the proper way, right in plain view as the gods intended.

The mixed shawarma wrap ($8) was better than good—it was great. Seriously, I’d drive across town for another taste of it. Spit-roasted beef and chicken, crunchy-yet-tender veggies, and sauce resulting in a great blend of flavors. Definitely the best thing on the menu, and among the best of its kind in town.

The gyro wrap ($7) was pretty tasty, though it consisted of marinated chicken breast rather than the more-traditional lamb (for a Greek-style gyro). The sauce was more Turkish cacik than Greek tzatziki, and the “pita” was the same non-pocket flatbread as other wraps on the menu (more akin to lavash). It didn’t make my Top 5 Best Gyros list, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

In addition to the wraps, my wife and I sampled some of the combo platters ($10-12), but weren’t as impressed. I love hummus—we make our own at home—and I’ve had some decent falafel, but this version was quite dry and the hummus was grainy and uninspiring. I’d say it was simply chickpeas and lemon juice, sans tahini, za’atar, garlic, seasoning, etc. The wedges of flatbread were thin and tough, doing nothing for the overcooked, thin squares of meat. However, the tabouli and shirazi salads were deliciously full of complex flavors, leaving me to wonder why the rest was so lacking.

Stuffed grape leaves are something I’ve enjoyed in the past, but I really disliked the mushy blobs of bulgar and oil we were served. My wife liked the flavor more than I did, but agreed the mushiness was off-putting. On an up-note, the basmati rice with lentils and roasted potatoes were quite good.

As the name implies, stick with those super-tasty shawarma wraps and you’ll leave happy.