The names of the sweets at Aladdin Bakery may be unfamiliar to some, but everybody knows what delicious tastes like.
The new Mediterranean bakery has opened in Fresno, serving up baklava, konafa, harissah and other gooey treats laden with nuts and cheese. In the kitchen is a 27-year-old Syrian refugee who got his first job as an assistant baker at 16.
Both the baker and the bakery are getting their footing.
Aladdin Bakery opened about two months ago, in an obscure spot in north Fresno. At 90 E. Escalon Ave., the bakery is tucked in an industrial park behind Herb Bauer Sporting Goods, just east of Blackstone Avenue.
Everybody likes him. If he spoke English, you would like him.
Ali Altaiyeb, Aladdin Bakery
It’s open to the public and has a handful of seats, but this is no fancy sit-down bakery like La Boulangerie. Sweets made in Aladdin’s kitchen are sold to local stores and in boxes of varying size. And yes, you can walk in and get just one or two of those konafa – a pastry made from shredded dough and cheese.
The bakery owners hope to have kiosk or storefront in a more prominent location soon.
Baker Anas Hamad has been in Fresno for about two months. He doesn’t speak English, though he’s hoping to learn.
He grew up in Damascus, where he got a job as an assistant baker at age 16. The war in Syria has sent members of his extended family in different directions, though Hamad didn’t see much damage at his home before leaving.
When Hamad, his wife and their 2-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl first came to the United States, they lived in Michigan. After a year and eight months, he decided he didn’t like the cold weather.
So, after visiting a friend in Fresno, the family decided to make it their home, he said through Ali Altaiyeb, an investor in the business.
While Hamad bakes, Altaiyeb’s son, 21-year-old Aimen, runs the business side of the bakery and is usually working out front.
Hamad and the bakery are already getting attention. A New York Times reporter interviewed him, in part about how the family stopped accepting government aid they qualified for like food stamps.
“He doesn’t like to be relying on these things,” Altaiyeb said. “By six months he started working and relying on himself.”
But back to those pastries.
Most use phyllo dough – shredding it, curling it and shaping it into different bite-size shapes. The pastries are inspired by various Mediterranean countries like Turkey, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Greece.
You can get the sweets at the bakery from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days a week.
You can also buy them at Dunia Market at Cedar and Gettysburg avenues and at FreshCo Food Center at Shields and Brawley avenues. Distributors also deliver them to some small international markets and convenience stores.
“He wants people to come and try what he makes,” Altaiyeb translated for Hamad. “You have many varieties of pastries in one spot.”