Pita Island's new owner capitalizes on years of experience with Mediterranean food

Chicken Kebab Platter
The Chicken Kebab Platter ($14.99) comes with two broiled chicken kebab skewers with charred peppers and onions on basmati rice. It is served with tzatziki, hummus, a pita and a Greek salad. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Chicken Kebab Platter ($14.99) comes with two broiled chicken kebab skewers with charred peppers and onions on basmati rice. It is served with tzatziki, hummus, a pita and a Greek salad. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Owner Adan Cruz has worked more than 20 years in the restaurant business. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)
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The Gyro Pita ($8.50) has thinly sliced roasted lamb and beef. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)
Adan Cruz is a Mexico City native serving Mediterranean cuisine to the American public.

It might sound a little odd, but Cruz said it fits his background and vision for Pita Island, his family-owned and -run restaurant.

“On my website, you won’t see a lot of words saying ‘authentic, authentic, authentic,’” he said. “I don’t believe in authentic food. Authentic is from the original source. My goal is to adopt this concept to the American palate.”

He does not mean cheap or lower quality by that. Rather, he wants the flavors balanced just so, and he said he insists on buying top-quality ingredients.

“Even if I have to pay more, I try to get the best ones,” Cruz said. “Everyone is going to say the same thing, but you can tell by the comments. ... The food is the business.”


Cruz knows Mediterranean food because he worked 20 years in Mediterranean restaurants, starting as a dishwasher, but doing about every job possible over the years—prep cook, line cook, supervisor, assistant manager, general manager and district manager. He also was exposed to several different chefs.

Through that time, he said he built his savings so he could buy his own place. He thought about doing Mexican food, but with his background in Mediterranean food, he said it made more sense for him to continue with that.

His opportunity came almost a year ago when Pita Island came up for sale.

“I stopped by,” he said. “I saw a lot of potential with my experience. So we made a deal.”

He mostly kept the same menu with some name changes, but he said the previous owner worked without recipes.

“He did it by eyeball,” he said. “No measurements.”

Cruz spent first couple months working out recipes for consistency. It kept him busy, especially having to take on all the roles with little help available to hire. But his son, Kevin, and his wife, Lorena, have helped get him through.

“As long as you have progress, that’s good,” he said. “That’s the mentality.”

Drive-thru success

One of the things that Adan Cruz said attracted him to the small space that is Pita Island was a drive-thru window—unusual for his kind of restaurant. He estimates:

  • 90% of business comes to the drive-thru

  • Half of drive-thru business calls ahead

  • 7-20 minutes ticket time, depending on what is ordered


Pita Island

865 N. Gilbert Road, Ste. D-101, Gilbert

480-545-0722

https://pitaisland.com

Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.