EVERETT, Wash. — To make a perfect pita, the oven needs to be hot, according to Nech Zebari.
“We need about 500° to cook our bread so it's the high heat that makes the moisture in the bread turn into gas which will puff up the bread and give you that super nice pocket that everyone looks for in a pita,” Zebari said.
Zebari came to America from Iraqi Kurdistan in '97 when he was 5. His family recipe came too.
“Growing up as a kid we always had fresh bread, my mom would always be making it. There's just something different about the bread that we had it wasn't like the bread you get at the stores,” he explained.
He started baking with his brother and his sister-in-law, and after some trial and error, opened a bakery. While working full time as a nurse.
Today the flatbreads and pastries he makes at Alida’s Bakery (the name is a combination of his brother’s and sister-in-law’s names) are a taste of home to customers with Middle Eastern roots. And the bakery is busy enough that Nech was able to quit his nursing job.
This is one of the only bakeries in the Northwest that makes football-shaped Iraqi flatbread – samoon.
"This right here brings people back to their homeland, that nice traditional shape that they're used to,” Nech said, grabbing a bag of samoon that bears his likeness.
Manakish are another popular item — flatbreads topped with cheese or za’atar, a mix of thyme, sesame seed and olive oil. They’re a tasty two dollar alternative to a breakfast sandwich. Nech explained that people in the Middle East start their days with manakish.
There are sweet pastries here too, Alida’s baklava sells out daily and a churro-like treat called a duddly is crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside, and delicious all the way through.
But there’s one steaming star of the show at this bakery.
“The one big huge item that everybody comes here for is the pita bread. My customers tell me this is the most authentic pita bread they’ve had in the entire United States.”
And that hot oven does more than give pitas their pocket. It makes this family bakery feel like home.
“A lot of the customers that I have from the Middle East and from Africa, they describe to me how in those places you go to the bakery and get the bread hot, you get fresh bread from the exact same day. They smell the bread, they touch the bag that’s still warm — you can still see a little bit of the mist in the bag. It just creates a sense of warmth and a sense of home and a sense of culture for them.”