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Culinary Connoisseur: Bella Pita

By Jenae Cohn

May 6, 2008 9:15 p.m.

The Gayley Avenue strip in Westwood may primarily be known for its greasy burger joints and sandwich shops that are ““ let’s face it ““ only palatable as emergency sustenance stops.

However, the recently established Bella Pita defies oily expectations with its inexpensive, reasonably sized servings of fresh, hot pita pockets.

Established for about a year in Westwood, Bella Pita’s inauspicious appearance may mistakenly give the impression of “dirtiness” or “cheapness,” but Bella Pita embodies neither of these characteristics.

The menu offers two simple dining options: pitas or “wowshis.” All of the pita bread is homemade ““ a refreshing change from the prepackaged pita bread offered at establishments such as Falafel King ““ and can be filled with lamb, ground beef, tuna or falafel.

Though an extensive search through Google yielded no exact definition of a wowshi, one may think of it as a Mediterranean calzone: The meat or bean filling is baked inside the pita dough rather than stuffed into the pita pocket after getting cooked.

The wowshi is also slightly thinner than the pita and, to ensure easier eating, is split into separate pieces rather than one large pita pocket. Like the pita bread, the wowshi dough is also homemade.

Typically, upon walking into Bella Pita, there will even be at least one worker in the back of the kitchen kneading a huge pile of dough and slicing off pieces to place in the oven.

Because the pita bread is soft and warm, the tastiness of the pita ordered depends entirely upon the filling chosen. For red meat lovers, the lamb pita provides six tender ounces of lamb meat cooked however long you’d like. While the lamb is not seasoned at all, the meat tastes fresh and juicy.

Aside from the lamb, the other meat options at Bella Pita prove disappointing. The burger pita provides a standard serving of ground beef that may as well come in patty form from In-N-Out. The chicken inside the chicken wowshi also, unfortunately, comes out a little dry and could use a slight salt-and-pepper seasoning to give it a little extra flavor.

The vegetarian options at Bella Pita, while limited, prove the most enticing and the least expensive. Falafel is fried upon ordering and tastes light, crispy and well-seasoned. Though falafel may be ordered inside a pita, customers may also order individual falafel patties for a dollar apiece. The bean wowshis, too, are a flavorful bet. The moisture from the black beans stuffed inside the baked pita bread provides a delectably gooey texture.

Perhaps what makes Bella Pita an especially desirable dining option is its extensive fixings bar. Customers may add vegetables, including lettuce, tomatoes, white cabbage, baked cauliflower, grilled red onions, and cucumbers, and sauces, such as lemon dressing, herb dressing, tahini, hot sauce, and hummus, to their pitas to make them as flavorful as they desire.

Trying these different fixings is an absolute must ““ without any toppings, the pitas and wowshis are really nothing special. While the tahini could use more garlic and the lemon and herb dressings taste oily inside the pita pocket, the hot sauces, made from a secret recipe, provide a spicy bite.

The hummus, served from a giant pump, could also use more garlic, but its creamy texture offers perfect companionship to the basic meat or falafel fillings.

Unfortunately, Bella Pita’s dining area is about the size of a dorm room, offering only four bar stools to sit at a counter facing the window.

The best bet is to take food to go, despite the tempting option to stick around to stock up on extra veggies and toppings.

Bella Pita may not be the classiest of dining options, but given the usual Gayley Avenue greasy options, a pita stuffed however you’d like it seems positively refreshing.

Email Cohn at [email protected]

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Jenae Cohn
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