(PHOTO: Just Shawarma owner Nedal Atieh (right) says that Bahaa Shakir (left) is the greatest shawarma chef in the city.)
Nedal Atieh says Stittsville residents have been incredibly welcoming since he opened the doors to Just Shawarma on Carp Road a couple of weeks ago.
“The community is very supportive, very friendly. Especially social media, on Stittsville Neighbours and Stittsville Moms,” he says.
I met up with Atieh inside the restaurant on Tuesday night. The first thing that struck me was how bright and vibrant the space is. The second thing that struck me was that delicious garlic shawarma smell. Overwhelming, in a good way.
I ask him why shawarmas are so popular in Ottawa – there’s even been a documentary produced about the city’s legendary shawarma shops.
“We’re the shawarma capital of Canada,” he says. “It’s a good, healthy food. Grilled meat, salad, fresh tomato, onion, garlic. Canadians love garlic.”
Atieh says the what his restaurant and others in Ottawa serve is a “Canadian shawarma” because of all the ingredients that get loaded on top. A traditional shawarma is typically just the meat (chicken or beef) and a basic garlic sauce.
Atieh is originally from Jordan. He first arrived in Canada in 2010 and became a permanent resident here in 2013. He earned a Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the early 1980s.
His Jordanian heritage is on display in posters up the walls. He proudly points out landmarks like Petra and the Dead Sea. He has a bit of background in the restaurant business, and most recently was a co-owner of a Nestle Toll House location in Westboro. (He calls employee Bahaa Shakir “the greatest” shawarma chef in Ottawa.)
He lives with his family in Barrhaven but set up shop in Stittsville because it was one of the few areas in the city that isn’t already saturated with shawarma restaurants. The closest one is about four kilometres away on Hazeldean Road. Long term, he’d like to open more Just Shawarma locations in the city and maybe franchise the operation across Canada.
He hopes to meet even more residents at the grand opening on Thursday, September 15. Specials include a free small sandwich from 4pm-7pm, as well as a draw for a pair of Sens tickets. The restaurant is located at 1110 Carp Road (behind the new Good Life) and they’re on Facebook.