ARNOLD - Big Sittoo's may have opened its doors this past October, but that doesn't mean owner Traci York didn't have an idea for the Middle Eastern restaurant on the back burner for some time.
"I've been talking about doing this for years and years," York said. "I love to feed people. I'm half Italian, half Syrian, so that's all we do is feed people."
She and her staff have been busy doing just that, offering up a selection of hearty foods ranging from dips to dessert and everything in between.
Just a few of the popular menu items are kibbee, meat pies, Syrian bread and stuffed grape leaves. Homemade soups and sandwiches are offered too. And if someone is looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, gourmet cupcakes and fresh-baked cookies are available.
For those who may be interested in cooking up something of their own, Big Sittoo's offers ingredients for Syrian and other Middle Eastern dishes.
The response to the restaurant has been very good, York said, adding that the Middle Eastern eatery fills a local niche.
"There's so many ethnic people in New Kensington and Arnold," she said, "but there really wasn't anything that had Middle Eastern food."
The colorful Drey Street take-out restaurant, which includes a few cafe-style settings, offers not only the taste but the look of the Middle East. Among the authentic touches that transform the former Valos Candy shop are Middle Eastern sayings that adorn the walls written by a friend of York's who lived in Lebanon.
Ethnic dishes were a staple in the lives of York and her family members, especially Big Sittoo's namesake, her grandmother, Dorothy Hardy. "Sittoo" means "grandmother" in Syrian. York's children call her own mother "Sittoo" and when it came to their great-grandmother, they called her "Big Sittoo".
Dorothy Hardy passed away last year.
"She loved to cook," York said. "She was kind of the idea behind this, so we did this in her name."
And that's not all that York does in memory of Big Sittoo.
She also uses her grandmother's recipes. A number of them were published in the cookbooks of New Kensington's St. George Syrian Orthodox Christian Church, which Dorothy Hardy began contributing to in the early 80's. York proudly displays the cookbooks at her restaurant, along with pictures of Big Sittoo and other family members.
For her, there's always room at the table, not only on Drey Street, but also in the surrounding area.
"I was born and raised here," she said. "I want new businesses to open here."
Big Sittoo's Mid-Eastern Takeout, located at 1120 Drey Street, Arnold, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. After hours, the restaurant is also available for parties and events by appointment. More information is available by calling 724-339-PITA(7482), sending an email to Bigsittoos@verizon.net or on Facebook.
Photos, left to right: Big Sittoo's exterior; Big Sittoo's namesake, Dorothy Hardy; meat pie and kibbee; stuffed grape leaves. Some photos courtesy of Traci York.Return to WEDIG News Archive