Chef Dima, owner and head chef at Ammatoli, knows how to cook. It is as simple as that. One bite of any dish at her restaurant in Downtown Long Beach makes that clear as day. Levant is a region in the Middle East, specifically Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine and Chef Dima specializes in this Levantine style cuisine. The menu has everything from your standard chicken shawarma, to dishes you may never have heard of like Musakhan chicken which is a classic Palestinian dish with sautéed onion and pine nuts alongside a cucumber and yogurt salad. Ammatoli has something for everyone, even the pickiest of eaters.
Every dish at Ammatoli is the very best of the best. It’s the best hummus you have ever had paired with the most flavorful and moist chicken you could imagine and every plate, experienced either dine in or take out, is consistent and filling. It’s the kind of food that feels like a treat because anything that tastes this good couldn’t be good for you, but that’s not quite true. One of the things the team at Ammatoli pride themselves on is how nutritional their food really is. Less oil and salt, but more flavor. The recipes call for few ingredients, but the ones that are used pack a flavorful punch and are always as fresh as humanly possible. An absolute stand out star on Ammatoli’s menu is the Spicy Garlic Lemon Chicken. You’ll find it under the “Rotisserie Chicken” section of the menu, but it’s so much more than that. It’s half of a rotisserie chicken that has been cooked with this near-indescribable spicy garlic lemon sauce. The sauce is this flawless combination of tart, spice, and a touch of sweet garlic. The chicken itself is always cooked to fall-off-the-bone perfection and served with rice, two sides, and extra sauce for dipping and drizzling. This chicken dish is well seasoned and balanced, it’s no surprise to learn it’s one of the most popular items on the menu. Babaghannouj has always been a favorite of mine and to no one’s surprise Ammatoli’s version of this classic mezza is unbeatable. Smoky eggplant with tahini, garlic, and other spice always served garnished with pomegranate seeds for a fun crunch and touch of sweetness.
Ammatoli is a restaurant that evokes the feeling of a homecooked meal. Even for someone like me, who grew up in a household from a culture vastly different than that born in the Levant region, I find myself feeling the comfort of a meal made by someone who cares. It does help that more often than not, it’s chef Dima herself back in the kitchen cooking with a (now masked) smile, while one or more of her children is helping out the serving staff and her husband Sam is in the back running the numbers. A family style meal from a truly family owned restaurant. The portions for the entree plates seem designed for a little bit of sharing, but the also have their Family Kebab Feast, which boasts 6 full kebabs, grilled veggies, rice, two sides, and a large salad. A great way to treat the whole household to a meal made with love on a day when you might be missing your loved ones who are self-isolating or quarantining somewhere else.
Pre-pandemic, it wouldn’t be unusual to run into Chef Dima at the farmers market right around the corner from their 3rd and Long Beach Boulevard location. Not only does she get some of her produce there, but also the fresh flowers you’ll always see at the restaurant. The interior of Ammatoli is beautiful, Chef Dima studied interior design and it shows. She designed and decorated the whole place herself and even know there will be small decorative improvements I catch from time to time. If you plan on ordering take out, which you absolutely should, make sure you take a peek inside to check out the hanging light fixtures and ornate décor. Also, make sure you check out what the special for that week is. Through her weekend specials I’ve tried dishes that I had never even heard of and have not been disappointed. Many of her specials are served family style too, so if you’re looking for something special to do this holiday season while staying inside, it’s a great way to add some happiness to your week. A delicious and unique meal that tastes just as good done take out style? We couldn’t ask for anything more.