Ramiz Alapahetee, family bring love of food & culture to River Parishes

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Brothers Ramiz, Ramzi and Mostafa Alapahetee opened Zaman Mediterranean Café in LaPlace 10 months ago, completing a lifelong dream that stretched back to their homeland in Jordan.

The brothers moved to Louisiana with their mother in May of 2013, working odd jobs as dishwashers, busing tables or whatever else was available while saving money and finding the right place to start their own restaurant.

Ramiz, 26, who operates the LaPlace location, said he owes everything to his family.

“They gave us a job and allowed me to live my dream,” he said. “That is why we came to United States, because we had a dream to come here. It is a place that we can live and do what we want.”

It was Mostafa (also known as Steve) who worked as a chef at the restaurant that used to sit in Zaman’s current location, 1502 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace’s Riverlands Shopping Center.

Steve knew LaPlace and came to Ramiz, saying the community lacked a Mediterranean food presence, especially with the recent closure of a Greek and Lebanese restaurant.

Zaman Mediterranean Café is located at 1502 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace’s Riverlands Shopping Center.

“We thought this would be a great place to bring the food we love and grew up eating,” Ramiz said. “We got the same location, came in and changed everything, from the interior decorating, the menu and the name. I really feel LaPlace needs this type of food.”

Today, the family prides itself on the healthy offerings, stressing everything is made fresh and with olive oil, so as to provide healthier options.

“There is not one thing that comes in here that is frozen,” Ramiz said. “I cook everything that we serve, from the chicken shawarma to the humus. I teach my team in the kitchen on how to cook the foods, but nothing goes out without me tasting it to make sure it is perfect. Our customers really are getting the freshest food.”

Ramiz is quick to credit his mother, who guided her boys to always be there for each other and put family first — “Me and my brothers are three different people, but we act like we are one person. That is really how my mom raised us.”

Zaman’s recipes are either handed down from or inspired by the brothers’ mom.

From the grape leaves to cabbage rolls to kibbi, she taught each how to cook.

She still occasionally comes to the LaPlace restaurant to help cook, a true blessing, because Ramiz describes her as “the best.”

“Her teaching me is part of why I think I like to cook so much,” he said. “She does come here and help me. I try to pay her, but she doesn’t like that and tells me, ‘no. I do this for my son.’”

At that point, a son knows when to stop arguing with his mom.

The LaPlace restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday.

A second location has since been opened in Slidell and is run by Ramzi.

In LaPlace, Ramiz keeps a close eye on the food and operations, making sure his River Region customers stay satisfied and coming back for more.

Like any confident chef, he says everything is delicious but will point out the chicken shawarma, tilapia and Ram Chicken when prompted for recommendations.

“I named Ram Chicken after myself since my name is Ramiz,” he joked. “This dish is a grilled chicken breast with Alfredo sauce and mushrooms. It is so good. Oh and I can’t forget the kebab. It is a Jordan recipe and uses a lot of Jordan seasoning.”

He also doesn’t plan to quit with just two locations.

“I want to see Zaman Café everywhere,” Ramiz said. “I am currently looking at locations in Amite and Destrehan. I am not going to stop until we are everywhere.”

— Candace Hemelt

contributed to this report.