iPita Mediterranean Grill
Pacific View Mall
3301 E. Main St., suite 2592, Ventura
I hate watching movies set in New York. Without fail, from action to romance, if it’s in New York, someone is eating a falafel. That’s because New Yorkers understand the significance of having a falafel stuffed pita at the ready: Wherever you go in New York, there’s always a falafel waiting.
I wish I could say the same about Ventura County. With very few exceptions, finding a falafel in Ventura takes effort. The times are changing, however, and iPita Mediterranean Grill has popped up inside of the Pacific View Mall for that casual falafel wrap while you shop.
Set in the large corner spot formerly inhabited by a Mongolian restaurant, iPita stands out among the corporate chain offerings in the food court. The walk-up counter is open and airy, with drink offerings on display alongside the fixings for various dishes.
Whenever I have the chance to grab a falafel, I’m grabbing it. On the iPita menu is the falafel pita ($7.99). The pita, stuffed with several balls of falafel along with pickles, tomato, onions, hummus and tahini, is large enough to feed one without the side that it comes with, but choosing to double up on the carbs, I chose the seasoned fries.
Also offered are the classic Greek gyro pita ($7.99) and the chicken shawarma pita ($7.99), both served with fries. You’ll recall in the first Avengers film the crew sitting around a table, having saved the planet, eating shawarma. Again, New York films reminding me of their glut of Mediterranean eateries.
Not satisfied with having a whole pita stuffed with falafel, we also chose the vegetarian plate ($9.99) to round out our meal. The plate includes two falafel balls, two grape leaf-wrapped rice known as dolma, the bulgur and parsley salad known as tabbouleh and a Greek salad. With two drinks, the total came to just over $30 for three meals.
My first memory of envy over the glut of falafel joints in New York City actually came in the film Batman Begins. Yes, Batman takes place in Gotham, which is supposed to be New York, right? A crooked cop forces a falafel vendor to give him protection money, and the vendor notes that his children won’t be able to eat, should he be fleeced.
“What? Kids don’t like falafel?” asked the crooked cop.
“I do,” I thought quietly in the theater. “I love falafel.”
The iPita falafel proved a worthy falafel. Wrapped snuggly in a pita wrap, it looked more like a burrito than I was accustomed to, but I’m not docking points for that. The not-too-tart pickles accentuated the herby freshness of the balls and the tomatoes and onions were fresh, if not a bit wet. The Tzatziki sauce, in all of its garlicky glory, sealed the deal: this was a worthy falafel for that poor vendor’s kids and hungry adults alike.
As I finished the pita, I sighed, knowing that soon it would be gone — until I remembered the veggie tray and its promise of two crispy falafel, an extra treat. Served plain, it showcased the subtle hints of herbs and spices within a crisp shell. The hummus alone warranted a take home box, and the Greek salad was, well, a Greek salad. Disappointingly, the tabbouleh was overloaded with parsley and somewhat bland. The dolma made up for it with a punch of its lemony marinade.
We sat in the drab Pacific View Mall food court with three trays full of food, all served in single-use Styrofoam containers, with single-use plastic utensils. If I could ask for one thing from iPita, it’s to consider more sustainable options for service. Given that I plan to visit many times, I would hate to think of what my footprint might be should Styrofoam and plastic remain the norm.
Next door, an under construction sign promised a new neighbor coming soon for iPita: Burgerim. Burgerim famously serves a falafel burger, one of its few vegetarian options. My suggestion is, once it opens, to ignore the falafel burger and instead grab a falafel pita from iPita. It’s authentic, delicious and, well, undoubtedly better for you in the long run.
The next time I happen to be in a theater and the famous New York City skyline appears on the horizon, I’ll pray that I have an iPita falafel pita with me. If not, I’ll bide my time and hit it up after.