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By Thomas J. Sullivan–
It’s a long journey from Baghdad, Iraq to Citrus Heights. Husband and wife Samir and Rnia Wardi and her brother Dani Gorgees are delighted to welcome new customers to try their favorite dishes at their new Family Restaurant, now open in the Safeway shopping plaza at the corner of Greenback Lane and San Juan Avenue.
Although having only been open for about two weeks, the new restaurant is already receiving positive reviews among first-time customers. Reviewers on Yelp so far have given the restaurant an average of five-out-of-five stars.
“We wanted to create a menu of popular Halal dishes everyone new to Iraqi cuisine could enjoy,” said Rnia Wardi. “We’ve also included well-known Mediterranean dishes in our menu many customers are familiar with. And we’re also trying out new dishes and desserts as we go.”
The restaurant offers 10 different appetizers priced between $3.99 and $5.99, including tabouli, hummus, zitunia and pickled beets. Eggplant, coleslaw, potato, macaroni, red cabbage and cheese salads are also popular.
“Our family had a popular restaurant in Baghdad before we came to the United States in 2012,” she said. Husband Samir, and her brother Dani, are co-partners in the venture.
The pair obtained their business license from the City of Citrus Heights in early February. Required licensing, new construction and building permits moved the launch to early this month.
“The restaurant was rebuilt from the ground up with a new kitchen, grill and customer service counter,” he said. “That added to the approval process.”
“We’ve been lucky to have been able to work with the property owner who has given us flexibility in paying our rent, which is necessary to help build our new restaurant’s visibility in Citrus Heights.”
The owners gutted the former site of Bon Appetite from top to bottom, decorating the interior of their restaurant in a colorful, airy blue and white theme. The food preparation and grill area are prominent so customers can see many of their lunch or dishes prepared while they watch.
Lunch and dinner menu items start at $6.99. Most menu items are also offered for take-out.
“Beef and chicken shawarma sandwiches and plates have been brisk sellers,” Rnia said. So too have been Family Restaurant’s beef and chicken kabob and tika plates.
Traditional Western choices include a beef burger and grilled chicken sandwich. Falafel is made fresh daily and offered as a plate or as a sandwich.
Popular Iraqi favorites include kubba, a type of dish usually made of a bulgur or potato dough, or long-grain white rice dough, that is stuffed with a ground meat mixture, often hand-shaped like an egg, sometimes flattened like a croquette, then either boiled or baked or deep fried.
Samir Wardi, co-partner of Family Restaurant, said his busiest time of day tends to be after 8 p.m. following the traditional Muslim hour of prayer.
“It’s a packed house,” he said with a smile. Customers from across the Citrus Heights area looking for a fresh twist on an evening meal are encouraged to give the restaurant a try, he said.
Family Restaurant is located at 7329 Greenback Ln., in Citrus Heights, and is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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