Pizza may be one of humankind’s oldest recipes. The idea of taking a flat disk of dough and baking it quickly with a little topping is an ancient one. Versions appear in cuisines around the world. There’s focaccia from Italy, socca from France, naan from India. But one often overlooked cousin is zaatar bread, a snack usually associated with Palestine, Israel, and Lebanon.
Plenty of falafel joints around town serve zaatar bread, but often it’s precooked and ends up rubbery, sometimes even warmed up in a microwave. To find the best rendition, go to Bedouin Tent in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill. This small restaurant specializes in what it dubs “pitzas”—house-made flatbreads baked to order with a choice of several toppings from ground lamb to leeks and scallions. But go for the zaatar bread ($4); it’s like pizza pared down to its most primal form. As soon as you order, you can watch as the baker rolls out a ball of dough, drenches it in olive oil (much more than you’d expect), and sprinkles it liberally with zataar—a mixture of sesame seeds, a Middle-Eastern variety of thyme, and salt. Then the little pie goes into a red-hot furnace.
Fresh zaatar bread is also served in Park Slope at Olive Vine Café, operated by the same owners (at 441 7th Avenue, tel: 718-499-0555), as well as in Manhattan (for a more expensive $6) at Moustache (locations at 90 Bedford Street, tel: 212-229-2220, and 265 East 10th Street, tel: 212-228-2022).