WEST PITTSTON — Jo Marie Yamin-Ali enjoyed cooking food with her family growing up, which inspired her current career path.
The Scranton resident, along with her husband Akram Ali, officially opened their restaurant The Garden Mediterranean Cafe and Grill at 540 Luzerne Ave. June 23.
Jo Marie runs the restaurant with her husband and sister Nancy Yamin. She said the style of the food reflects their heritage.
“We sell Lebanese food,” said Jo Marie. “(My sister and I) are Lebanese and my husband is Palestinian and we have traditional Lebanese and Palestinian foods. Everything is fresh and made to order.”
Food items include spinach pies, stuffed cabbage, stuffed squash, garden burgers, chicken over rice and more.
“There’s a lot of dishes that are vegetarian and some vegan, but there’s also a lot of meat, too,” said Nancy.
The sisters said most of their food recipes are family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
“We’re a family of foodies,” said Nancy. “The social dynamics of the Lebanese family revolves around food. Everyone sits around the table and eats and our family cooks communally. It’s a family thing.”
The Garden Mediterranean Cafe and Grill is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and Jo Marie said she is looking to hire employees who can cook, wash dishes and bus tables.
Jo Marie said it took only four weeks to open, as the place was in fair shape and she already had a plan for the interior layout. The restaurant has a grill, a freezer, cooler, wooden bar along the window and five dining tables.
“(Jo Marie) has been doing this for a long time,” said Nancy. “She’s been in the food business for a long time and has been dreaming about a restaurant forever. So, she had in her head everything that she wanted to do. She was set; it was just putting it into motion and we had a lot of help from family.”
Prior to opening The Garden Mediterranean Cafe and Grill, Jo Marie owned a pastry shop in Scranton called Pastry N’ Petals and then owned a food truck for eight years selling New York City-style foods such as gyros, chicken and rice, and steak and cheese.
During her time running her food truck, Jo Marie said she always wanted to open her own restaurant but the opportunity didn’t present itself until she looked around in West Pittston and saw the property for rent.
Since opening their doors, the sisters said business has been going great and the people of West Pittston have welcomed them with open arms.
“It’s just so nice, friendly and clean,” said Jo Marie. “It’s just a friendly community.”
“Everyone has been so welcoming and very friendly,” added Nancy. “They seem excited about having something new and different.”