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The Z&Z Za’atar Company Is Converting a Rockville Pizza Shop Into Its First Restaurant

Z&Z Manoushe Bakery will sell its za’atar-topped flatbreads, meat pies, and market goods out of a spot with lots of family history

A manoushe topped with za’atar and vegetables from Z&Z Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

The Palestinian-American family that supplies its Z&Z za’atar to trendy D.C. restaurants and boutique grocers plans to open a standalone restaurant in Rockville, Maryland, to showcase their manoushe, the Arab flatbreads they’ve sold at farmers’ markets for the past five years.

Led by brothers Danny and Johnny Dubbaneh, Z&Z has acquired a lease with hopes of opening Z&Z Manoushe Bakery later this summer. In addition to manoushe, the restaurant will serve lahm bi ajeen, a meat pie that regulars at the family’s farmers’ market stand have often requested. Sides will include tabbouleh, hummus, labneh, and za’atar-dusted french fries. For dessert, Z&Z will serve knafeh, a crunchy, stretchy pastry of phyllo dough, cheese, and simple syrup often flavored with flowers. To drink, they’ll offer mint tea, cardamom coffee, and Bonjus, a Lebanese fruit juice often paired with manoushe. On weekends, Z&Z will feature an Arab breakfast platter with manoushe, labneh, and olives.

The space at 1111 Nelson Street will also house a market that will stock all of Z&Z’s goods and more, like pickles, tahini, and coffee beans. Z&Z is pursuing a license that will allow it to sell retail bottles of wine from Terra Sancta Trading, an importer based in Jacksonville, Florida, that focuses on Eastern Mediterranean producers.

Z&Z Manoushe Bakery seats 25 people indoors, with room for another 25 outside, and the Dubbanehs expect some customers will take their order to go for picnics in Woodley Gardens Park down the street.

Z&Z got its start in D.C.-area farmers’ markets in 2016 before eventually creating an online store and expanding into Whole Foods. It specializes in za’atar, a spice blend of the namesake herb, sesame, and sumac, as well as frozen manoushe. Local restaurants like Call Your Mother deli, Timber Pizza Co., and Maydan use Z&Z za’atar in their kitchens.

The family business includes parents Issa and Muna Dubbaneh, who lend a knowledge of Arab cooking from their respective childhoods in Palestine and Jordan. The couple spent years running a Gaithersburg, Maryland, restaurant called the Chicken Basket. Danny and Johnny’s siblings pitch in at a farmers’ market stand in Fairfax, Virginia, and help out in their Maryland warehouse.

A group shot of the Dubbaneh family in front of their Z&Z za’atar tent at the farmer’s market in Fairfax
A group shot of the Dubbaneh family in front of their Z&Z za’atar tent at the farmer’s market in Fairfax
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

The forthcoming restaurant will open in a space that belonged to their maternal grandfather, Fayez Khawaja, from 1982 to 2006. At one point it was a deli, and then a fried chicken joint called Chicken Tonight. The restaurant was a hub for the Dubbanehs as children; any birthday party or extended family gathering would take place in its big orange booths. Known around the neighborhood as Fuzzy, their grandfather made his mark on the community and the space; his writing still covers the electrical panels. Danny knows he and Johnny have big shoes to fill. Fayez “was an icon in the community. People still ask about him,” Danny says.

The Dubbanehs plan to renovate the space, trading the retro orange and brown for white walls, green accents, and Arab pop art, complete with a large window that will reveal the kitchen. “The theater of the kitchen is something people at the market love,” Danny says.