COURTESY OF J'S PITARIA
J's Pitaria is launching a line of frozen Bosnian pita that will be available for pick-up at their Affton restaurant.
Four years ago, Josi and Zamir Jahic opened J's Pitaria (91 Concord Plaza Shopping Center, Affton; 314-270-8005)
as a tiny storefront off Morganford in the shadow of the Bevo Mill. Now, the husband and wife team not only have a larger location in Affton, they are getting ready to launch a line of frozen pita that will bring the traditional Bosnian dish into the home kitchens of people throughout St. Louis and beyond.
"We wanted to give back to our customers with the frozen line," says Josi Jahic, who co-owns J's Pitaria with her husband Zamir. "We've always wanted to because we've had so many requests from people who want to bake it at home, but we couldn't do it. Now, we have this new technology that freezes the pita in seconds, so we started thinking about how we could do it."
The new frozen line features four different types of pita — meat, cheese, potato and spinach and cheese — that can be ordered through the J's Pitaria website and picked up at the restaurant. Guests can also order the frozen line onsite and take the products home immediately, depending on availability. Curbside pickup will also be accommodated.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges to J's Pitaria, Jahic says that it forced her and Zamir to get creative in order to sustain their business. Over the course of the past year, she found herself cooking a lot at home, and she began experimenting with the frozen pita line with the help of her large family. Through trial and error, she figured out the perfect combination of cooking time and oven temperature that recreated the fresh-baked pita experience she and her husband produce in the restaurant. Confident that they could give their customers a high-quality product, they decided to run with it.
"Being in a crisis was nothing new for us," Jahic says. "We've been through war, moving here, learning a new culture and a new language. Having gone through that really helped us not get into panic mode, but into a mode where we said, 'OK, this is a crisis. Let's figure out what we can do to make it better.' We have to figure out how to do things differently and how to adjust to the new normal."
Though that new normal is currently limited to the in-store pickup option, Jahic hopes that J's Pitaria can expand to grocery stores, first in the St. Louis area and eventually nationwide. She knows the demand is there; the restaurant regularly sells out of the pita and has a hard time keeping up because the dish is handmade. And because the pita is so approachable, she believes that demand will only grow the more people know about it.
"People think that the only people who eat this are those who have grown up with it, but that's not the case," Jahic says. "We've had an amazing response with everyone loving them because they are so delicious. Our vision is to get into stores here, and the next step would be to get this into stores nationwide. That's our dream and where we see ourselves going."
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