With Love Restaurant changes menu for a Somali taste

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The Daily Orange

Monday August 26, 2019 (RBB NEWS) – Sangabo Abdi’s dream was to open her own restaurant, and With Love, a local restaurant, is making that happen. Located on North Salina Street, With Love brings in a new entrepreneur-in-residence every six months, giving chefs the opportunity to showcase different cuisines to the community.

Earlier this month, With Love transitioned its menu. The restaurant now serves Somali food made by Abdi, the new entrepreneur-in-residence.

“I love cooking because where I grew up, we always cook… for our family, relatives, visitors, all of our neighbors as they come to visit us,” Abdi said.

Program manager Joseph Bilecki, who’s worked in the food service industry for 35 years, said that his experience working with Abdi is a unique one, as most chefs typically bring in their own cookbook recipes. But with Abdi growing up in Somalia, the recipes she learned were passed down orally. Part of the process involved sitting down and recording the recipes.

He said for Abdi, recreating these recipes at the restaurant helps her preserve the cuisine and traditions of Somalia.

“A lot of that stuff might get lost because it was only oral tradition and if she doesn’t get that written down, it could just go away,” Bilecki said.

Somalian food is the current cuisine that is being prepared by chef Sangabo Abdi who prepares recipes passed down through oral tradition. COREY HENRY | PHOTO EDITOR

When With Love introduces a new cuisine to its community, the restaurant aims to expose customers to try new cuisines while maintaining a comfortable atmosphere. Bilecki said that in the Somali dishes featured at With Love, the spices tell a story of Abdi’s heritage.

With Somalia being a former colony of Italy, many of the dishes are pasta-based, something people may be surprised by when flavors like cumin, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon are also commonplace, he said.

Featured in the new menu is Baasto – a dish that mirrors the Italian Bolognese but differs in containing spices and flavors that define Somali cuisine, rather than the traditional Italian herbs of basil and oregano, Bilecki said.

dish that’s similar to the Italian Bolognese dish. COREY HENRY | PHOTO EDITOR

Other dishes served in the restaurant consist of four starters and five main dishes. The five main dishes include Oodkac Muqmad which is braised goat with onions, garlic and Mom’s rice along with Baasto, an angel hair pasta paired with ground beef, onions, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes, according to the With Love website.

Abdi said she has many more recipes she would like to add to the menu in the future, including coconut candy and Sambusa: meat pastry filled with beef, vegetables and lamb.

She added that in addition of With Love being an incubator for budding restaurant owners, it also serves as an educational program for youth and anyone struggling to find employment. Partnered with CNY Works and the Center for Community Alternatives, two local programs that guide struggling individuals toward a stable career path, the restaurant provides an eight-week learning program through Onondaga Community College.

In the program, CNY youth are trained as servers while CCA work as the cooking staff. Outside of the restaurant hours, students are provided with classroom time where they learn skills such as team-building and order taking, said Gabby Reagan, food services coordinator for With Love and a Syracuse University alum.

“We go over all sorts of things about how to be an adult in the workforce,” she said. With the youth Reagan works with, she said it’s important that the restaurant gives them hope for the future.