With more than 20 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, cuisine from this region is inspired by many different cultures. Countries like Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey are among those that first spring to mind when you think Mediterranean cuisine. However, countries like Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus are also among those in the Mediterranean Sea area, bringing Middle Eastern culinary influence to the table.
Cuisine from the Mediterranean consists primarily of fresh fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on mains that include poultry and seafood, pastas, rice and other grains. Mediterranean cuisine tends to be on the healthier side with a focus on grilling or broiling meats and the use of olive oil as a main fat. If you are looking to explore the cuisine of the Mediterranean right here in Sacramento, try one of these five spots.
The Press Bistro
1809 Capitol Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95811
The Press Bistro is a neighborhood spot inspired by the French bistro and Italian trattoria. It’s a great spot to meet for drinks, some small plates or a big dinner. The menu showcases Sacramento’s local and seasonal ingredients, and a unique touch is that The Press Bistro offers barrel-poured house wines from a local producer. Popular menu items include tapas, especially the hummus, goat cheese stuffed piquillo peppers and roasted beets with goat cheese. Whether you stick with tapas or order a full entree, be sure to save room for dessert — Bailey’s creme brulee and banana caramel crepe with rum ice cream and almonds are both can’t-miss menu items.
Related: Best Tapas in the Sacramento Area
Maalouf’s Taste of Lebanon
1433 Fulton Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825
Maalouf’s Taste of Lebanon is some of the only Lebanese food you will get to try in Sacramento, and lucky for locals, it’s a gem. Owners Abdul and Rita Maalouf grew up in Lebanon and after moving to Sacramento, Abdul decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of owning a restaurant. Their shared love of cooking comes through in the menu, which incorporates a lot of local specialties. Be sure to try Maalouf’s hummus made with garbanzo beans, garlic, lemon juice and Tahini sauce, topped with olive oil and served with pita bread and a side of pickles. Another recommendation is a breakfast specialty served in many parts of the Middle East. Foul meddamas is made of crushed fava beans mixed with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, all served with a side of sliced onions and pita bread.
3839 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95819
Formoli’s offers an eclectic menu featuring a variety of culinary influences. Be sure to try the Medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese and pancetta atop Belgian endive, and the eggplant portabella Napoleon – eggplant and portebella mushroom layered with Asiago cheese and sage-pesto with a balsamic reduction. And, while probably not the most Mediterranean of dishes, one of Formoli’s most popular menu items is the whiskey burger. It’s a pepper-encrusted burger with a whiskey demi-glace, cheddar cheese, habanero aioli and mixed greens served on a ciabatta bun.
Pita Kitchen Plus
2989 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95825
Pita Kitchen Plus is another stop in Sacramento for authentic Mediterranean cuisine. The falafel and hummus are two must-try menu items. If you have not tried falafel, now’s the time. These are made with ground chickpeas, fava beans, onions, parsley and spices. The mixture is formed into balls, deep fried and served with a side of Tahini sauce. Pita Kitchen Plus has a huge menu with a variety of favorites to choose from, so you are likely to find yourself wanting to come back again and again. And note, Pita Kitchen Plus advertises itself as offering Halal foods for those who follow Islamic dietary guidelines.
5644 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95819
This very casual eatery serves up some authentic Greek food. If on the run, Opa! Opa! accepts phone orders and even offers curbside pick up. And if you are looking to have a party, Opa! Opa! offers some great catering options with party trays of hummus, feta and olives, falafel and more. Choose from hot entrees, salads and even marinated meats as well. If you are eating in, don’t miss the Greek fries made with garlic and feta. Need I say more?
Erin De Santiago is a freelance travel and food/wine writer and photographer from Sacramento, California. She is a regional membership coordinator for the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and writes for a number of publications in addition to publishing her own blogs. She has traveled to over 40 countries on five continents in search of the best food and wine around the globe. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.