“We always wanted to serve the food we grew up on during our childhood,” said co-owner Sam Alachouch who runs the restaurant at 10 W. Main St. with his family.
About Marlena’s Mediterranean Deli
ADDRESS 10 W. Main St., Middletown
HOURS Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Monday.
PHONE (302) 373-6957
Marlena’s brings Mediterranean flavors to Middletown
The restaurant is named for two children, but the food is traditional cooking from mom at Marlena’s Mediterranean Deli in Middletown.
The restaurant opened just over a year ago serving dishes from Lebanon, Syria and Greece on Cochran Square near Sully’s Irish Pub in downtown Middletown.
The menu features pita wraps, gyros, salads and desserts. Side orders and appetizers include baba ghannouj which is roasted eggplant, tzatziki which is a yogurt sauce with cucumbers, and hummus – both plain or with roasted red peppers or black olives or with sujuk meat. Platters include falafel, made from chick peas, served with a tabbuli salad; stuffed grape leaves filled with rice, tomatoes and onions; and kabsi rice which has carrots, green peas and garlic sauce or tzatziki sauce.
“We always wanted to serve the food we grew up on during our childhood,” said co-owner Sam Alachouch who runs the restaurant with his family.
The name of the restaurant is a combination of the names of his nieces, Marliela and Salena.
His family is from Syria, moved to the Philadelphia area about 10 years ago and now lives in the Middletown area.
“I worked in restaurants in Philadelphia, but I always wanted to have a restaurant with my family,” said Alachouch.
His sister, Reham Chaar, said, “We make everything here from scratch. We have a lot of traditional dishes but we’re always coming up with new ideas, too.”
Their fattoush salad includes fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers mixed with olive oil and topped with feta cheese and toasted pita bread.
The tabbuli salad features freshly chopped parsley, tomatoes and cracked wheat mixed with lemon juice and olive oil.
They also make their own baklava, a dessert pastry with walnuts and honey.
Because some customers haven’t tried some of the dishes before, Alachouch and Chaar offer free samples and are always willing to describe what’s in the dish and how it’s made.
Alachouch said, “It can be a challenge when you open a new restaurant and put your food out there, your cuisine. Sometimes people are skeptical, but when they know its fresh and you’re giving them your best, it makes that challenge easier.”
So far, the most popular items on the menu have been the gyros and the shawarma pita wraps.
“People like the tzatziki sauce we make for the gyros with Greek yogurt, cucumbers and garlic,” said Alachouch. “The shawarma wraps are thinly sliced chicken, garlic sauce and pickles.”
Open for just over a year, the restaurant is run by Alachouch and Chaar with the help of their parents.
“With what’s going on in Syria, the restaurant has brought our family together and made us stronger,” said Alachouch.
He said customers have been helpful and encouraging.
“I like the people. They are very welcoming and supportive,” he said.
Chaar agreed: “I like getting to see all the people and talk to all the people every day. They are very nice.”
Marlena’s Deli also sells a variety of packaged foods, desserts and coffee – like a mini-grocery store – so customers can take the taste of the Mediterranean home.
The business accepts credit cards and Apple Pay and also offers a loyalty program.
“We have a lot of regular customers and you get points with every purchase to earn special offers,” said Alachouch. “It’s our way of saying thank you to our loyal customers.”