RI Eats: Aleppo Sweets in Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — It’s been quite the journey for Youssef and Reem Akhtarini. Their providence restaurant, Aleppo Sweets, was recently featured in Bon Appetit’s Top 50–eight years after they fled the wartorn Syrian capital. 

“Very difficult, no safety, no water, no electric. No good for family and children,” said Youssef Akhtarini.

They moved to Turkey before coming to Providence as refugees in 2016. They met Sandy Martin, a volunteer with the nonprofit Dorcas. 

“My very first day, Youssef and Reem, that was their first day in the united states,” said Martin.

She encouraged Youssef, a baker since 16, to pursue his dreams here. 

“I would come over and see Youssef baking baklava in his tiny little apartment,” said Martin.

Fast forward three years and Martin was teaming up with the Akhtarinis to open Aleppo Sweets on Ives Street. At first the couple was nervous whether Rhode Islanders would like the food of their homeland.

“I didn’t think many people would come,” said Reem Akhtarini. 

Boy, were they wrong. Everything from kebabs to baklava have all been massively popular.  

“The customers keep coming and you just have to keep cooking, week after week, and they have really worked their hearts out,” said Martin. 

“This is very important for me. When a customer tells me ‘oh, very delicious, very good,’ I’m very happy,” said Youssef Akhtarini. 

This week they’ve been churning out countless orders of baklava ahead of the holidays. 

Other specialties include grape leaves with rice and red pepper, Syrian yogurt called labneh, shawarma, kippe–breaded bites of ground beef–and kebabs with meat and peppers.

There are also about ten different varieties of baklava. 

Aleppo Sweets is open every day except Monday and Tuesday. They’re open special hours on Christmas Eve, from 9am to noon. 

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2019