The decision that three Palestinian brothers made to make and sell the Middle Eastern cuisine they grew up eating was recently validated when their Rockville bakery was named one of the country’s best new restaurants by Bon Appétit magazine.
“It was a mix of shocked and excited and validated all at once,” Z & Z Manoushe Bakery co-owner Danny Dubbaneh, 33, said of the family-run eatery’s inclusion on the magazine’s 50 Best New Restaurants 2022 list. “Even though it’s something we kind of hoped for, everything we’ve created and the thought and effort that went behind everything, we never imagined this amount of recognition.”
Dubbaneh said the bakery business has grown by about 70 percent new customers since the magazine’s Sept. 8 announcement and the family might have to hire more staff.
“The past couple of weekends, we’ve been kind of like ‘all hands on deck’ work. We’re still a family-run business, so my parents hopped on for the weekend,” he said. “We staff more people than we used to do, we have a nice little team of really good people that we consider like our extended family… . So, we’re definitely looking to hire up, we need as much help as we can get.”
Z & Z Manoushe Bakery, at 1111 Nelson St., focuses on high-quality Middle Eastern Cuisine based the traditional dish manoushe, a flatbread.
The bakery was started last year by Rockville natives and brothers Danny, Johnny and Ronnie, 35, but is now mainly run by Danny and Johnny, 29, as Ronnie has since moved out of the area. On Oct. 1, the family will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening with a small party, but haven’t worked out the full details yet, according to Dubbaneh.
He said the flatbread’s most common topping is a blend of herbs called Za’atar and Zayt, which is Arabic for olive oil. The two toppings are also what inspired the name for the bakery since the two are always served together.
Some other flatbread toppings include vegetables with a house-made toum, which is a garlic aioli, or shawarma-spiced chicken on a creamy mayo base with Arab pickles, pickled turnips and drizzled with toum.
Although the business is nearly a year old, its story dates to the 1980s.
“We opened our restaurant in the exact same location our grandfather had a sub shop from 1985 until 2006, so there’s a lot of family connection there,” Dubbaneh said.
The brothers’ grandfather, Fayez Khawaja, owned Chicken Delight, which offered food that was completely different from what the bakery offers, according to Dubbaneh.
“I don’t think there’s anything similar, I think that’s what kind of gives us our purpose,” he said. “Back when my grandfather opened the restaurant, they had to sell kind of regular food because they thought no one would want to eat the food they grew up eating. So, it’s really cool for us to see like all these years later to be succeeding selling the foods that are special to us and to the people that grew up in the same area as we did.”