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Pita Jungle brings art of healthy eating to new Tempe location

Pita Jungle V
The new location of Pita Jungle is pictured at the intersection of Mill Avenue and University Drive in downtown Tempe on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The restaurant is scheduled to open on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Pita Jungle is a familiar name to Arizonans by now, but its new location in Tempe is just the beginning for the restaurant.

It was 1994 when Pita Jungle first opened its doors in Tempe on Dorsey Lane and Apache Boulevard. When confronted with the decision to renew its lease for another 10 years or to move to a new location, co-owner Bassel Osmani knew the decision he had to make.

“We had outgrown our original location," he said. “With a heavy heart, we had to shut down the old location.”

Osmani said the restaurant is enthusiastic about what is ahead for the company. Pita Jungle opened its newest location Monday on Mill Avenue and University Drive.

Pita Jungle is known for its Mediterranean-inspired food. All three owners studied at ASU in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During that time, there were few healthy eating or vegan/vegetarian options around Tempe. Bassel Osmani, Nelly Kohsok and Fouad Khodr saw the need to supply the demand for a better diet. Their restaurant was founded on the art of eating healthy.

Culinary and local art have a special place in the heart of the owners. At the new location, Pita Jungle wants to showcase just that. The walls of the restaurant are decorated in street art, an art form that has become popular over last couple of decades.

Kohsok has always had a hand in Pita Jungle’s creative aspect. Since the beginning, Pita Jungle has allowed students to showcase their original artwork in the restaurant — this location is no different. Pita Jungle plans to work directly with ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts to find more artwork for its restaurant.

“We want all of the art in the restaurant to be by ASU students,” Kohsok said. “They can put their art in for free. They can sell their art whether it is $200, $300, $400, even $900. They take all the proceeds. We don’t take any commission. We just make the transaction happen. At the end of each month, we will rotate the art sold.”

Pita Jungle does not just want to give only art students an outlet to express themselves, but their customers as well. When walking into Pita Jungle, there is street art from top to bottom, but there are walls and pillars specifically for customers to draw on. Long-time employee Phalene Leichtman said there are many reasons why she is still with the company after many years.

“I love this company” Leichtman said. “I have continued to stay working with this company for so long because they give you the freedom to be who you are. Your style of clothing, your makeup, your jewelry. They just really welcome you as you are.”

Not only is Pita Jungle excited to continue allowing people to express themselves and partner with ASU, but also to continue filling the need of healthy tasteful food. One of the ways they plan to do this is serving brunch for the first time. 

Pita Jungle locations currently offer lunch, dinner, dessert, children’s meals and a full bar. This new location will be offering brunch now, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. No matter what time of day, Tempe is a buzzing city, and with that parking can be a hassle to find. To help customers with that, they are now validating parking in partnership with the parking garage next door.

After almost 22 years, foodies Osmani, Kohsok and Khodr have continued to give people a place for self-expression and community where there is something for everyone on their menu. They show no sign of slowing down and are excited to see the new opportunity this new location will bring and to give the community a new place to call home.

Reach the reporter at or follow @yelyahdavisy0rk on Twitter.

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