While perusing some social media channels, I noticed a sudden flurry of references to a restaurant called Aleppo Sweets. The pictures I saw showed golden baklava and because of the name I got excited that perhaps the restaurant was Syrian owned.
Why get excited about Syrian food? A lot of people think that all Middle Eastern food is the same. That’s simply not true. There are variations on common dishes from each country or even regions within that country that can taste very different. I personally enjoy Syrian food in particular because the cuisine is all about keeping things simple while still employing excellent technique. Syrian cuisine rarely complicates dishes with overpowering spices or flavors, but rather lets the great ingredients shine through age old methods.
On the exact day the restaurant opened as a full service dining establishment, my wife went with her father completely by chance after I told her about Aleppo. They tried the food along with some baklava and enjoyed their meal very much. She brought home some baklava and I loved what I tasted. Shortly thereafter I went to get some takeout to sample the food myself.
I left the restaurant with a bag of deliciously savory classic Middle Eastern fare and sweetly simple baklava. That wasn’t all I left with, however. I learned about Chef Youssef Akhtarini’s journey with his family after fleeing a war-torn Syria, leaving their family bakery behind, and their stay in Turkey while they waited for the U.S. to open its doors to them. Upon arriving in Rhode Island, the Akhtarinis befriended an American couple that helped fund their dream to re-open their baklava bakery. Soon after, they began serving more than just delicious baklava and the busy restaurant shows how thrilled Providence is with their decision to open up shop.
107 Ives St.
Providence, RI 02906
Phone: (401) 533-9019
Service and Atmosphere
The exterior of Aleppo Sweets is simple and unassuming on the blossoming Ives St. in Providence, Rhode Island. The interior is as extravagant as the exterior is simple. When I walked in my heart swelled because I loved the lavish ornate styles that reminded me of restaurants I’ve seen in the actual Middle East. The decor is clean, but riddled with gold designs, cushions, and elaborate patterns surrounding the dark wood of the restaurant. The staff are mostly made up of the Akhtarinis themselves with Chef Youssef in the back periodically popping his head out to see how the restaurant is doing.
It’s important to note that the service at Aleppo is on the slow and methodical side, which in my opinion is better than fast and erratic. As of this writing, it is a pretty new restaurant and they are finding their footing as a full service dining establishment. The food, which is made to order, is well worth the wait though, so keep that in mind when visiting.
Thankfully, Aleppo Sweets is more than just a heartwarming story about hard working immigrants achieving the American Dream. The food is worthy of the story because it is authentic, fresh, and traditional Syrian fare.
Falafel – I judge every Middle Eastern restaurant by their falafel. If they don’t make good falafel, then they don’t know what they’re doing. Aleppo makes falafel like the kind served in Middle Eastern homes all over and that’s a good thing. It’s a chickpea base with herbs and spices like parsley and garlic that add a lot of flavor without detracting from the overall effect. They fry it nicely and it tastes excellent paired with their hummus.
Hummus – Once again, the hummus is like homemade and that’s a great thing. It’s a wonderful consistency that’s great for dipping and strikes a nice balance between the chickpeas and tahini. The drizzle of olive oil over the hummus adds a nice depth while the garlic, lemon, and cumin remain in perfect harmony.
Baba Ghanoush (not pictured) – I can’t say enough good things about the baba at Aleppo. The eggplant tastes so fresh and it has the perfect amount of roasted, creamy, smokiness. The baba ghanoush is bright and light as it should be rather than dense the way some places make it. It also has a drizzle of oilve oil on top. I loved it.
Kibbeh – This may be the best Kibbeh I’ve ever had from a restaurant. So often fried kibbeh is a little dry, but Aleppo’s version isn’t dry and it’s fantastically tender. I enjoyed it very much and my wife who doesn’t usually like kibbeh couldn’t get enough.
Lamb Fatayer – This style of fatayer was a first for me as I’m more familiar with the Lebanese version. Nonetheless, I thought the flavors were great. The crust of the “pie” boat was wonderfully soft while the well done spiced lamb and peppers provided excellent flavor. The contents of the fatayer boat are loose, so they can fall out if not handled properly, but I found that folding the boat in half lengthwise worked perfectly to contain everything. A little dip in the hummus and that made the dish for me.
Baklava – Aleppo makes some of the most uniquely simple and delicious baklava I’ve had from a restaurant. I’m partial to walnut baklava, but Aleppo has other kinds of baklava such as pistachio. One of the really interesting things about Aleppo’s baklava is that they don’t use cinnamon like a lot of other recipes or traditions. Nonetheless, their flavors are so on point that they don’t need it at all. They also know how to balance the syrup so that the baklava is at just the right sweetness while still maintaining crispiness throughout. So many baklavas out there are soggy with syrup and much too sweet. Lastly, I suspect that Aleppo makes their baklava using ghee or clarified butter (which is common in the Middle East) rather than just butter. It gives their baklava a depth of notable flavor that separates it from a lot of other baklava in America. Aleppo Sweet got its start as a bakery, so it wouldn’t be right to miss trying their delicious baklava. The different varieties are sure to have something for everyone.
Aleppo Sweets is an excellent Middle Eastern (specifically Syrian) restaurant that sits at the top three Middle Eastern restaurants in the Rhode Island and Southern MA areas. They make some of the best, simple, crispy, and properly sweet baklava you can buy. They also feature fresh, made to order, savory and traditional Syrian food ranging from falafel to hummus to kebabs. Everything is delicious and expertly created with techniques that the Akhtarini family perfected back in Syria. Providence is lucky to have them as part of the culinary landscape sharing their delicious food with any customer lucky enough to enjoy it. Go there, be patient, have some tea, and taste how Middle Eastern food should taste!
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