Lafa Mediterranean

An offshoot of the Lebanese restaurant Zeina’s Café on Varick Street in Utica is now open in New Hartford.

Elias Zeina started working at age 14 at his parents’ restaurant when it first opened over a decade ago. Now, he will be managing his own restaurant, Lafa Mediterranean by Zeina’s.

The business, on Commercial Drive, offers more fast, casual dining than the Varick Street restaurant, Zeina said.

While Zeina’s offers more traditional Lebanese cuisine, Zeina said Lafa will function more as a “stepping stone into healthier Mediterranean food,” with menu items such as pita wraps and bowls.

“We had a mission to kind of make healthy Mediterranean food more accessible to people in the Mohawk Valley,” he said of Zeina’s. He hopes Lafa will help continue that goal.

Zeina also believes the restaurant will lend itself to social distancing efforts during the coronavirus pandemic rather than be detracted by it. Food is served via counter service, with “grab and go” items that were made fresh. Seating is offered, but only for a maximum of 20 people.

“It’s a business that’s designed for a pandemic,” he said.

Patrons can also order food online for pickup or delivery, or purchase gift cards on the restaurant’s website.

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