Ilili restaurant, the Lebanese food reference, expands beyond New York

Ilili restaurant, the Lebanese food reference, expands beyond New York

The culinary journey of Philippe Massoud, executive chef, CEO and owner of ilili, is embedded in the rich heritage of Lebanese cuisine and hospitality. Inspired to bring Lebanese food to the forefront, Massoud opened ilili in 2007 in New York City’s Flatiron District. We learn more about the brand and its recent expansion.

What can you tell us about the new ilili branch in Washington, D.C.?
ilili officially opened its doors in D.C. on October 7. We have a magnificent space at The Wharf, with a warm, festive environment. We have poured our hearts and souls into this restaurant and believe it will make an impact on our nation’s capital. D.C.’s restaurant scene has evolved so much in recent years. When I left D.C. in 2005, after working at Georgetown’s Neyla, it seemed to be at the beginning of an incredible surge that has lasted and continues today. We’re proud to be a part of it and feel that ilili has a lot to offer toward the city’s growth.

How has the public responded to the new opening?
Better than we could have ever imagined! D.C. has embraced us so warmly, and we are thrilled with the positive response.

Ilili has become a reference for Lebanese food in New York. To what you attribute its success?
Nearly 15 years ago, when people were questioning my sanity in opening a 10,000-square-foot independent restaurant in Manhattan, I knew I had something to prove. I was taking Lebanese cuisine from street food, which is how most Americans recognized it at the time, to a higher level. We set ourselves the task of educating people and making sure Lebanese food was given a seat at the global table. This takes work, dedication and hardships to reposition a cuisine, especially in a market like New York City. I carried the weight of my family’s history and reputation and put a lot of pressure on my team to be consistent. I must give credit to the opening team who remained steadfast in their commitment to excellence. They all worked so hard to become ambassadors of Lebanese cuisine and culture. I truly believe we have given Lebanese food a new platform, and while it was no easy task, we are thankful for the opportunity.

Do you have any expansion plans?
We are completely focused on D.C. and New York right now, but I do hope that we will be able to think about expanding further in the future.

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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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