La Roma: Family's passion, Lebanese culture make great combo
BY SCOTT CHERRY World Restaurant Critic
Thursday, September 06, 2012
3/28/13 at 8:10 AM
No one ever could question the passion Souhaila and Rafat "R.J." Azar put into their food, nor their love for all people who came through the doors at La Roma Gourmet Pizza and Mediterranean Cuisine.
The Lebanese-born couple worked side-by-side for nine years in their Brookside bakery and 18 years at La Roma before R.J. died almost four years ago.
At the time, many loyal customers wondered if Souhaila and daughter Katia, who inherited that passion for food and people from her parents, would be able to carry on.
"I could have just stayed at home and grieved, and I do miss him deeply, but I found out my life is here," Souhaila said in her soft, gentle voice. "The customers are like family, many coming here since they were children, and they kept me going."
Katia, who was preparing for a teaching career, jumped in to give her mother a hand.
"I didn't expect to still be here," Katia said. "I just wanted to help Mom, but I found out how much I love our food and how much I love our customers, and I knew Father always had faith in the business."
So, to the delight of many, La Roma has carried on with its mix of Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
"We both can cook everything, but my mother still does most of the Lebanese cooking," Katia said.
We sampled a bit of both cultures on a recent visit, going for a medium veggie pizza ($15.20), a shaworma platter ($7.95), a gyros platter ($7.95), two cabbage rolls ($3.50 each) and tabouli ($3.50).
Onions, green peppers, black olives, mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic blended well with the fresh mozzarella cheese on the veggie pizza baked on a medium-crispy crust. It was larger than expected and provided lunch the next day.
The shaworma featured thin-sliced seasoned beef topped with onions, tomato, parsley and a thick, fragrant tahini sauce made from ground sesame seeds. This always has been a personal favorite at La Roma.
On the gyros platter, a thick mound of seasoned beef was topped with pickles and a flavorful tzatziki sauce based on yogurt, cucumber and garlic.
The platters come with hummus, a cabbage salad and pita bread. The smooth hummus, sprinkled with cayenne, was delicious.
We later learned La Roma doesn't get its garbanzo beans for the hummus out of a can. The cooks soak the dry beans overnight, then boil and mash them by hand.
The lemony tabouli was heavy on parsley with bits of cracked wheat, tomato and onion, and the cabbage rolls were thick with ground beef and rice in a tomato sauce.
Both of our entrees also are available as sandwiches. Other popular dishes at La Roma include tawook (garlic chicken), falafel (the chickpea patties here are more moist than most and are garnished with fresh mint), kafta (a ground beef dish), meat pies, spaghetti and lasagna.
If baklava is on the dessert tray, don't miss it. The honey-dripped dessert in flaky, butter-drenched phyllo dough is a decadent way to end a dinner.
The dining room looks more Italian than Middle Eastern with shiny tiles and awnings in red, green and white.
The family-friendly restaurant includes a former buffet station that holds a variety of children's books.
6027 S. Sheridan
Service: order at
(on a scale of 0
to 4 stars)
Lunch 11 a.m. to
2 p.m. Tuesday-
all major credit
Original Print Headline: Labor of love
Scott Cherry 918-581-8463
A La Roma six-topping supreme pizza is loaded with a variety of meats and vegetables. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Souhaila Azar (left) and daughter Katia Azar have combined to keep La Roma running smoothly since the death of Souhaila's husband, R.J. Azar. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World