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Mediterranean medley on Morsi’s menu


AFTER 24 YEARS as a chef and restaurant manager, Mahmoud Morsi decided it was time to go into business for himself.

The Spotsylvania County resident and his wife, Donna, spent a year searching for the perfect location. They found it last month when they peered in the window of the former CJ’s Dawg House in Southpoint II in Massaponax.

“As soon as we saw the brick wall, I said, ‘We can do something here,’” Donna Morsi said, referring to the exterior of the open kitchen’s counter.

Yesterday, workmen put up the black, gold and green sign for Morsi’s Mediterranean Grill at 10219 Southpoint Parkway as the couple waited for the health inspector to arrive. They plan to open the 1,600-square-foot space sometime next week. When they decide on the date, I’ll post it in my blog,

Mahmoud Morsi has worked for luxury hotels in Cyprus, Kuwait, Malta and the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el–Sheikh, as well as Italian and Mediterranean restaurants in the Fredericksburg and Woodbridge areas. He said he decided to focus on Mediterranean fare for his own restaurant because of the trend toward eating more healthfully and the dearthlack of a Mediterranean restaurants in the areaSpotsylvania.

“I didn’t want to be an Italian pizzeria. There’s too much competition,” he said. “There are five or six here. I’d be No. 7.”

Morsi’s menu will feature beef, chicken, lamb and veal kabobs with flavors from several countries ringing the Mediterranean. The Greek version, for example, will be marinated in yogurt, lemon, garlic, herbs, green peppers and several other ingredients.

The kabobs will sell for $8.99 with three sides, although a lunch special of chicken kabobs with rice, mixed vegetables and a drink, or any wrap, a drink and fries will be available for $6.99.

The restaurant, which will be open for lunch and dinner, also will serve a variety of appetizers, including two kinds of hummus, calamari and herb-flavored goat cheese served with pita chips; and such casual fare as salads, burgers, wraps and “pizza cones,” a unique, finger-friendly twist on the pizzeria staple.

Some of restaurants where Morsi used to work served the cones because people could carry them as they walked along the beach. He’ll serve his in cone-shaped, metal french-fry holders lined with food-grade paper.

“It’s popular in New York, but nobody in Virginia has it,” he said. “It’s like pizza in your hand. I think people will like it because it’s different and new.”

Customers who want something more substantial will have their choice of such entrées as salmon served with a Marsala sauce, lamb shanks slow cooked with rosemary and mint, and merguez, spicy North African sausages that are popular in Morocco, which will be served with couscous and vegetables.

Morsi, who is a pastry chef, also will have a number of desserts, including the chocolate baklava that his wife and sister-in-law adore.

Everything, from the appetizers to the naan baked in a special oven, will be made from scratch and will be available for dining in, as takeout or by delivery within a 5-mile radius.

The restaurant currently is a spruced-up version of its former self. The Morsis enlisted family and friends to scrub the Mediterranean-blue and white checked tile floors and give the former restaurant’s tables and chairs a fresh coat of black paint.

“This is entrepreneurship on a budget,” said Donna Morsi.

As the restaurant becomes established, she said she’d like to replace the tile with hardwood flooring and get new furniture to create a more welcoming environment.

“We want a nice, comfortable place where people can relax and eat,” said Donna Morsi. “When people come in and try his food, they’ll be happy.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407