A new restaurant coming to Baldwin Park means a new chapter for one experienced Orlando restaurateur – and he’s ready to serve up Mediterranean cuisine to the locals who call the area home.
Meza Mediterranean Grill will give Baldwin Park residents their fix of Lebanese food when it open its doors next month at 1780 Jake St. Owner Nazih Sebaali says he hopes to open the restaurant at the Village Center by July 16.
“I’m very excited,” he says. “I like the community — I think it’s going to be a very successful place.”
It’s a change of scenery for Sebaali, who ran Cafe Annie in Downtown Orlando for 29 years until the lease for the space ended and the building was sold. It’s a new beginning, and a new concept, he says. Instead of just serving lunch, the new restaurant will offer dinner, lunch, brunch and catering.
“The one in downtown was cafeteria-style — this is more of sit-down type service, more upscale,” says Sebaali, who is originally from Lebanon. “It’s always difficult the first few weeks getting things ready and making sure everything is working properly, but after a few weeks you’ll adjust to it. I get like 20 calls every day asking when we’re going to open. I got a big clientele base — they can’t wait until I open.”
Meza will serve everything from spicy hummus and falafel to lamb kabobs and gyros. Dishes are frequently seasoned with garlic, olive oil and a variety of other spices. For anyone who hasn’t tried food from Lebanon, they are in for a treat, Sebaali says.
“It’s very close to homemade cooking — fresh, nothing frozen or microwaved. … I’ve served it for 30 years, and they’ve loved it,” Sebaali says. “Lebanese are famous for their hospitality. They go out of their way to please their guests. It’s a cultural thing to take care of your guests. If you go to a Lebanese family as a visit, they won’t let you leave without eating something. … It carries on with the business.”
Sebaali’s journey into the restaurant business dates back to when he was 18 and just arriving in the United States as a college student at Louisiana State University to study mechanical engineering. He worked at several restaurants as a waiter, a dishwasher, a cook and a bartender and decided it was his true passion. He eventually moved to Orlando and started working for Disney and Marriott. He opened Cafe Annie in his late 20s and has learned the industry inside and out since then.
It’s all he’s ever wanted to do, he says.
Sebaali couldn’t be happier with the new location of his new restaurant. He’s older and wiser this time around — he opened up his first restaurant almost 30 years ago. Starting a business in the Baldwin Park area makes for perfect new beginning, he says.
“I like the mix of residential and commercial. … It’s seems friendly,” Sebaali says. “I like Baldwin Park. It seems more like what I want to do.”