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A taste of Israel in Nicaragua

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Pita Pita's owner David with his family. Gillian Farber photo

My typical mantra when traveling is “eat where the locals eat.” My husband and I always try to find the local spots for authentic culinary experiences. We are both self-proclaimed foodies and a big part of why we enjoy traveling is to taste all the flavours accompanying each unique destination. We recently returned home from a trip to Nicaragua and although the beaches, exceptional mountain ranges and fiery volcanoes made for an incredible vacation, the native food was, well, alright.
San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua was still very much untouched. The unpaved roads, rustic houses and inexpensive excursions make this country extraordinary. There were cheap taco stands, a small fish market and their very own “ceviche express.”

Having our fix of beach parties and cheap ceviche (a popular seafood dish) we paid for a shuttle to Granada, a beautiful old, colourful city riddled with historical colonial architecture. There were fewer tourists to be seen and we were excited to explore this vibrant new location. With horse and buggies and old Spanish haciendas it felt like we had been swept back in time.
Hungry and roaming the streets, we stumbled upon a restaurant that piqued our interest serving up a completely different cuisine we did not know had such an appeal in this region. We were hungry Jews searching for food and came across an Israeli-owned restaurant called Pita Pita. It was like running into an old friend who you thought moved away years ago only to find he was here, in your hometown all along!

Our group walked happily into the crowded restaurant, small from the outside but grand and bright inside. Worried there would be no table available for our now ravenous party, we were introduced to the owner of this establishment, David (who we later referred to as “King David”).

Something about David was different. Maybe it was his tough exterior, the Israeli accent or his impeccable English, whatever it was, David immediately treated us like old friends. There weren’t actually any available tables for our group but before I could even suggest splitting up, David was holding a large wooden table above his head, squeezing in between seated guests and eventually planting it out front of the restaurant. Within minutes, King David (now you see why) had quickly created a makeshift table for all of us to eat comfortably outside the front door along with a cold beer each, on the house.

GILLIAN FARBER PHOTO

We wondered, why did this Israeli man leave the Holy Land for a seemingly impoverished country? Did he feel settled? Did he bring his family with him? Was the restaurant successful? It looked to us that Pita Pita was doing very well (it was 9 p.m. when we showed up and the place was literally overflowing with patrons)! We felt an instant connection to this kind, friendly man who made us feel so comfortable, so quickly.

David told us that after 15 years of managing restaurants in Israel, he felt like something was missing. From the outside he had a very appealing lifestyle; living in Kibbutz Metzer, manager of a popular food chain called Lehem Erez and married to the love of his life with their second child on the way. But he always knew there was more, he just had to find it.

In 2014, David moved his wife and children to Nicaragua in search of a more serene life. A life that encompassed adventure, unconventional ideals and determination.

READ: THE CHALLENGES OF TRAVELING KOSHER

This voyage led him to achieve the freedom of opening his very own restaurant and used it as an opportunity to go on a family escapade.

“We just wanted to try something, new,” David explained. “To live outside of our safe and ‘boring’ environment. We thought we had all the reasons not to do it: risky, expensive, far away, irresponsible, etc. But then we thought that if we don’t go for it we will never know what we missed, so we said yes instead of saying no.”

His six-and seven-year-olds are now fluent in Hebrew and Spanish and their life in Central America is exactly what he wanted.

This beautiful encounter gave us all a different perspective on life as we know it. Our immediate connection to Israel was palpable however it was David’s generosity and gusto that made strangers feel like friends. Sitting at our improvised Granada dinner table, we were all linked by our common ancestry.

“King David” and his zest for life is something that stayed with us as we walked humbly back to our hostel wondering, when it will be our turn to say, yes.

PITA PITA: is located at Calle La Libertad, del Claro. One block towards the lake, Granada. 505-2552-4117