Is the East Bay big enough for two Mediterranean FOOD giants? Why, yes, it is.
Courtesy of Yalla Mediterranean
Burgers beware. Falafel is the new patty, and pitas are popping up everywhere.
Within the last two years, Gotta Eatta Pita opened in Danville, Pleasant Hill, and Pleasanton, and Yalla Mediterranean debuted in Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek, with another in Dublin coming soon. Both offer sustainably raised meats. Both follow the Chipotle-style fast-casual concept. And both businesses’ entrepreneurs live in the little town of Alamo.
No, they weren’t separated at birth. Yaniv Benaroya of Gotta Eatta Pita was born in Israel, immigrated here with his parents, and started a pita bakery straight out of high school. Dave Wolfgram of Yalla is a Chicago native who has been in the hospitality industry for decades.
On our visit, Gotta won the pita prize, with a plump, fragrant “sandwich” of creamy textures and nutty falafel. But Yalla is the hipper restaurant, with more variety, including juicy skewers that are fired to order and several tasty salad options.
So Gotta or Yalla? In the end, they’re both well worth a visit—and both will have a fourth location soon. Both in the South Bay. Spooky.
The Soul Of The Operation
Yaniv Benaroya / Gotta Eatta Pita
“My parents would take me to Israel, where pita was a street-food treat. When I came back here, there were no falafel stands. I felt a void. And it needed to be filled.”
Key to success:
Gotta’s house-made pita bread: It’s chewy and sturdy without being tough. “The pita expands and forms a giant bubble as it bakes at 900 degrees,” Benaroya says. “That’s the pocket. That’s the magic.”
Dave Wolfgram / Yalla Mediterranean
“I realized I wanted to pursue Mediterranean food and culture when I was on Mount Pelion in Greece, under a giant tree on the terrace of an old taverna, enjoying a cold Greek beer and perfect potato salad.”
Key to success:
Yalla is distinguished by its eight Mediterranean-style salads. They’re simple but surprisingly flavorful. “You have this uncooked grated carrot salad,” says Wolfgram, “and then you taste the dill and olive oil, and just a little bit of cumin. Suddenly, it comes alive.”