Providence, Rhode Island, has a little restaurant nested on its east side: Aleppo Sweets. This restaurant and café, as the name suggests, prizes itself on serving sweet goods, specifically baklava. These baklava are rooted in a deep history spanning the beginning of the Syrian civil war as the owner, having had experiences working in similar shops in Syria, had to leave it all behind due to the violence. Not letting this stop him though, this long process eventually led him to Rhode Island’s capitol and in early 2019, Aleppo Sweets opened its door to wild acclaim, even being noticed as potentially one of the top restaurants in the country.
Despite becoming famous so quickly, if you search the internet, you likely won’t find much advertisement or bragging. Instead, you’ll find storytelling of a humble family who genuinely cares about not only their product, but also about refugees and the Syrian community. This commitment to the community has translated into their shop and service, and people notice! Aleppo Sweets attracts a very diverse crowd with attendees from all around: college students and younger folks, older individuals, nearby residents, and travelers, all from different backgrounds wanting to experience that love that the Aleppo Sweets family has to offer.
Upon entering, the atmosphere of Aleppo Sweets is homey and aesthetic. This isn’t a typical fast-paced American based restaurant, it’s clearly curated to suit the intended culture without compromising all the while being welcoming to those who have yet to experience it. It’s laid back, has more than adequate seating at both tables and to lounge on in their seating area, and the staff treat you as if you’ve been a regular for years. It’s a bit dim, much of the décor is on the darker side, and overall, it’s very quiet despite the number of folks often in attendance. This sounds unwelcoming but it all of this makes for a pleasant, relaxed visit.
When I decided to visit, on walking in, I was confused. I wasn’t greeted by a host like your average restaurant and instead, it was as if I stepped into a café with hints of being a restaurant. People seemed to be ordering at the counter, taking a seat, and having the food brought out to them. With this observation, I followed and approached the medium sized counter which housed their menu and displayed the many types of baklava. In total, I counted a total of seven looking interesting baklava, and with a menu in hand, I waited patiently for the man at the counter to take my order.
After he had quickly finished some tasks, he greeted me with a demeanor I wasn’t used to. The vibe and the way he treated me was like he almost knew me. With that, I gave this friendly man my order: a set of all of their baklavas, ice cream baklava, and a pot of ginger, cardamom and mint tea to try—while also apologizing for not understanding how this place works. He reassured me, even providing a box should I want to bring any baklava home. I was also given an order number pole and was told I could sit anywhere I’d feel comfortable.
The baklava ice cream came first. I love ice cream and even have a whole blog post on it, but this wasn’t something I’ve experienced! A large vanilla ice cream scoop with bits of embedded pistachios sat between two flaky phyllo. The taste was mostly your average pure vanilla bean ice cream, although the texture provided by the semi-hard phyllo gave it some oomph. It was a bit difficult to eat due to this flaky pastry but I was in no rush and soon was able to appreciate the taste and texture combo, and alongside its reasonable price, I can absolutely recommend giving it a try!
Next came the baklava and tea. The baklava looked amazing and I expected a lot given its higher than average price. So, as an American, I had to go for the sweetest looking one, the one oozing chocolate! The texture combined with the taste of honey, chocolate, and nuts was quite sweet and full of flavors. Each flavor was clearly represented as I could individually taste each one as nothing overshadowed the other. I couldn’t wait to sample the others!
Next up were the six other baklava and long story short, each one was a different experience than the other. Some were more sweet, some mild or bold, they were all different, and frankly, out of the seven I tried, I don’t think I could pick a favorite. Overall, I was impressed, especially with how fresh they were and how you could taste the nuances in the flavor. Having had baklava at other places, this was the best I’ve had, although it wasn’t by a significant margin. Given the price, I’m not sure if it’s absolutely worth getting over what other places offer unless you’re a baklava connoisseur, looking for the best, or perhaps you just want to support a shop that supports and cares for its community.
For the pot of tea ordered, despite being advertised as small, could easily serve a small-medium group of people. It was strongly brewed and for some, it may be considered overbrewed. It wasn’t that bad, although personally, I would have preferred something that wasn’t so strong I had to stop myself from coughing at times. If it was a little less harsh, I could absolutely see myself loving it. The arrangement of flavors while also being lightly sweet has a lot of potential!
In summary, Aleppo Sweets offers wonderful baklava, although it is on the pricier side as you are paying for quality. They also have a selection of other Syrian and middle eastern foods to try, something that is still rare to come by in Providence. The dim, quiet atmosphere is pleasant alongside their service. Aleppo Sweets is a place to put on your foodie bucket list whether you’re looking for something sweet or hungry for a meal. It’s a place to sit down, relax, and enjoy yourself or chat with others, all the while supporting a local business that has committed itself to the community and culture.