Breakfast cuisine in the Middle East covers a lot of ground, from egg-based dishes popular in Iraq to the dipping foods of Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. When Ali Alibeji, co-owner of Dijlah in Lawrenceville, noticed the lack of authentic Middle Eastern breakfast in Pittsburgh, he knew he wanted his menu to incorporate that diversity.
Since debuting the weekend breakfast menu in September, one of the biggest draws has been their selection of foul (sometimes spelled ful, pronounced “fool”), a popular dish made from boiling fava beans with spices and vegetables. There’s foul mudammas, made with tahini, tomatoes, onions, parsley and olive oil over pita bread. Or a sweeter rendition that includes tomatoes boiled with the beans.
Some plates might ring more familiar to American tastes, such eggs and sausage served over pita bread, or the eggs served with Dijlah’s signature Iraqi kebob. There are also two takes on shakshuka: The first offers scrambled eggs with tomatoes and parsley over pita, another in which the eggs are soft-cooked with sautéed tomatoes and topped with mozzarella.
Shaaria is a dish made with vermicelli noodles combined with cardamom, sugar, pistachios and coconut. Dipping dishes, served with pita bread, include hummus, pureed lentils and lebna, a strained yogurt from Lebanon.
While the current menu draws influence across a number of cultures, Alibeji, who took over as co-owner in 2015, has plans to introduce new items from other cuisines in the future. His original plan was to start small, but judging from the customer response so far, he sees room for growth.