Good Bread: Kingsway Bakery
On a stretch of Kings Highway in Midwood, Brooklyn, the name Pita Sababa has achieved almost mythic status. In Hebrew, "sababa" is slang for "hip" or "cool." About 20 years ago, an Israeli baker opened Pita Sababa in the middle of the city's main Syrian-Jewish neighborhood. For the SY's (as Syrian-Jews are known), Pita Sababa became synonymous with quality pita bread. However, a succession of owners drove the bakery into the ground. About two years ago a young Israeli named Ronnie Savion bought the store, renaming it the Kingsway Bakery. Radically, he changed the pita recipe, determined to make it the best pita bread in New York City.
There are two styles of pita bread in New York. The most popular is the classic thin version, which you can either use as a scoop or slice open for making a sandwich. The other is the extra thick Israeli style, with almost no pocket but a lot of fluffy crumb to mop up your hummus and babaganoush. Kingsway's pita bread, both whole wheat and the white, reaches a happy medium between these two types. It has the big pocket of the classic version and the downy crumb of the Israeli pita. Ronnie achieves his results by sticking as closely as possible to Israeli methods, including hand kneading and rising on wooden trays to give it the right texture and moisture level. Most importantly, he makes his pita with just flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt. Throw it on a grill to puff it up and impart a bit of smoky flavor, and I don't think any other pita in the city can compete.
Beyond the pita, Kingsway also produces a wide range of other baked goods, including cookies, challahs, laffa flat breads, spinach boureks, and excellent Jerusalem-style bagels, flattened and covered with sesame seeds.
Ronnie's family is of Moroccan-Jewish ancestry, so the store's basement kitchen also produces a line of Moroccan-Jewish salads and dips. This includes hummus, tabouleh, babaganoush, tahini, schug hot sauce, and most interestingly, a pickle of sliced whole lemons that really livens up a falafel sandwich. The best time to pick them up is Thursday or Friday, when the bakery groans with food waiting to be bought by pre-sabbath shoppers. The biggest seller is pita bread. As the Kingsway bag says: "Sababa since 1990."