CHICAGO (WLS) --When you think of Middle Eastern food, you might think falafel or sliced shawarma sandwiches - maybe some hummus on the side.
But a Middle Eastern bakery in West Rogers Park also has pizza on the menu - although it's probably unlike most of the pizza you're used to seeing.
It would be easy, and understandable, if you assumed the only thing they made at Taza Bakery - located in a West Rogers Park strip mall - was pizza, or at least the Middle Eastern version of a pizza.
That's because at some point each day, there's someone taking out the proofed dough, running it through a sheeter, to stretch it out, then there's usually an application of shredded cheese, plus za'atar, the ubiquitous spice blend of sumac, oregano and sesame, and sometimes, a ground beef and tomato spread or beef with garlic. Then into a large, gas-fired oven for just a few minutes. Call it Lebanese, Iraqi, Greek or Turkish...it's all delicious.
"All the food is similar in that region; between Turkey, Syria, Greece, Lebanon, all those they make almost the same food," said Firas Bsat, the chef at Taza. "It's like the Mediterranean version of a pizza, and it's eaten for breakfast."
But there is so much more than pizza. Savory pies, for instance, filled with all manner of potatoes or cheese or spinach.
"Spinach comes with spinach, onion, sumac and a bit of olive oil," he said.
Then there are the excellent sandwiches. The diamond-shaped sammouns, stuffed with lettuce, tomato, pickles and a choice of either beef or chicken shawarma, sliced from the vertical spit; then topped with creamy tahini sauce. Another option: the tannour bread, which is rolled up like a burrito then grilled. They'll even prepare massive platters of rice-stuffed vegetables and other specialties for special events.
"We can do catering for two people up to two thousand people," he said.
Now Taza has a lot of dishes you might expect at a Lebanese bakery or restaurant, like the falafel and the shawarma, but it's the catering menu where they can get really creative with dishes like this ground beef and freekah and cashews.
And in this week's Extra Course, Steve shows off one of the bakery's most unique desserts, called kanefa, and explains how it's eaten.
Extra Course: Kanefa at Taza Bakery
3100 W Devon Ave.