It all began with bread. Pita, to be exact.
When Mariette and Elias Bitar brought their family to South Philadelphia in the early 1970s — relocating from Northern Lebanon with three young sons in the uncertain years preceding the Lebanese Civil War — the bread that anchored their every meal was nowhere to be found. There was Stroehmann bread, sure, fluffy and factory-made. There were seeded loaves at the Italian Market, dotted with sesame.
But fresh pita, painted dark in spots by fire? That was not yet part of the local culinary scene. For the couple, owners of a generational grain farm and flour mill outside of Tripoli to which they added a bakery in the 1960s, the absence was visceral.