A Middle Eastern Feast


DEANNA BELLANDI. St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Fla.: December 21, 1995 The lunch hour isn't what it used to be. More often than not, it's a few bites of food choked down between telephone calls while trying not to spill anything on your desk.
That's how it can be in our office, so takeout food has been our savior on more than one occasion.

Recently, we decided to order from the Bread & Butter Gourmet Deli on Alt. U.S. 19. It has been open since September 1994 and is run by Theo and Nellie Abbas. It's an eatery that offers an eclectic mix of food, from Middle Eastern fare to a $2.99 barbecue chicken sandwich that earned rave reviews from one of my co-workers because of its sweet, smoky sauce and large bun.

I called our order in about 12:25 p.m. and was promised it would be ready 15 minutes later. It was. The deli also will deliver your meal - with a minimum $8 purchase - anywhere between Tampa Road in north Pinellas and Holiday in Pasco County.

Making the 10-minute drive back to my office from the deli was an exercise in restraint. Although the food was tightly wrapped in plastic to prevent leaks - a definite plus - the packaging couldn't contain the smells.

Back at my office, my co-workers were surprised by the size of their orders. Everything was big, from the chicken sandwich to a $4.69 hot pastrami and corned beef sandwich made with lean meat.

Our editor ordered a $4.69 Cuban sandwich - packed with pork, salami and ham - that was more than she could eat. She also enjoyed her side order of red potato salad, even though the deli didn't have the French potato salad - made with vinaigrette and basil - that she really wanted.

Another co-worker devoured a deviled egg as an appetizer, although she pronounced it in need of more paprika. My $4.99 Middle Eastern platter was a sight to behold. It was brimming with hummus (mashed garbanzo beans seasoned with garlic, cumin, sesame paste and lemon juice), baba ghanoush (an eggplant dip), tabouli (a chopped-parsley and bulgur salad), falafel (fried ground chickpeas) and stuffed grape leaves filled with rice. It also had cucumber salad and sliced pita bread to dip in all the fixings.

Everything was superb and left a garlic taste lingering in my mouth for hours. I keep a toothbrush in my desk, and it came in handy that day. Although we ordered by phone, a trip to the deli to eat in or take out is worth it.

The deli case is stuffed with an assortment of salads, and the hot food section can be equally tantalizing with dishes that range from gigantic stuffed peppers to soups to a turkey that's roasted fresh daily and carved for sandwiches.

For dessert, the four of us shared two pieces of baklava that were sticky with honey and had a rich buttery flavor. All the food - including one soda - cost less than $25. We all pronounced the meal a success. It will continue as one of favorite lunchtime destinations. Bread & Butter Gourmet Deli 1880 Alt. U.S. 19 S in Tarpon Springs Phone: 934-9003 Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday thru Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday Consumers: Four adults What we got: Mediterranean platter, hot pastrami and corned beef sandwich, barbecue chicken sandwich, hot Cuban sandwich, a deviled egg, side order of potato salad, two pieces of baklava What it cost: $24.34 Time it took: 15 minutes Pay with: Cash, credit cards

Copyright Times Publishing Co. Dec 21, 1995