When Abdullahad Hannan’s family suggested that he take over the abandoned premises at 420 Faillon East in Villeray and set up his own bakery, some convincing was required. There was so much history at that address, he said: the location had previously housed Chez Apo, one of the city’s most frequented lahmajoun bakeries, where Hannan had worked for over thirty years.
“Why don’t we try to do something beautiful in the space, to honour the history of this place, and the community?” his son Charbel asked. And so, with his family’s help — and a landlord happy to have the space occupied by a bakery again — the new Lahmajoune Villeray has lost no time establishing itself as a destination for Syrian, Lebanese, and Armenian specialties in the neighbourhood.
The bright premises, sparkling with blue and white tiles and a baby-blue logo on the window to match, bustles with activity from Monday to Saturday, when Hannan Senior is in the open kitchen producing the round, thin flatbreads topped with minced beef, onions, tomatoes, and their special secret spice mix. (The bakery and patisserie is open on Sundays, but no baking takes place then.)
In addition to lahmajoun, literally “dough with meat,” from the Arabic — priced at $2 each, $10 for a half-dozen and $18 for a dozen — Hannan is also making sfiha, triangular spinach pies, and other slightly thicker flatbreads, for $5 each. These varieties are topped with spinach and feta, three cheeses (halloumi, mozzarella, and feta), and what Charbel Hannan calls “the Mediterranean,” with Armenian sausage and cheese.
On a visit to the bakery, customers may see a mountain’s worth of purple eggplants visible from the front counters, waiting to be transformed into eggplant salad, with onions, peppers, and garlic cooked in oil, and baba ghanoush, pureed with tahini, lemon, and garlic. The bakery also sells a collection of other homemade salads, dips, and cold dishes, including muhammara (red peppers and walnuts), tabbouleh, lemony beans, tzatziki, hummus, turnip pickles, and warak enab, classic vine leaves stuffed with rice.
The family matriarch, Haramci Lahdo, is responsible for all these dishes, as well as making her signature kibbeh. This specialty, made by hand “in the shape of a little football,” Charbel says, is available in the traditional meat version, with bulgar and the halal beef used in all their non-vegetarian offerings, or with chickpea, spinach, and lemon, for vegans.
And, of course, there are sweets: homemade cheesecake, macarons, and ma’amoul, regional buttery cookies filled with nuts, pistachios, or dates. “I can tell you, these melt in your mouth,” says Charbel. “These are my parent’s winning recipes.” So far, customers seem to agree, with a steady stream heading to nearby Jarry Park or home with Lahmajoune Villeray’s takeout bags in tow.
Lahmajoune Villeray is open for takeout from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays at 420 Faillon East.