Making Adjustments to Thrive

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

February 23, 2023

Ibrahim “Abe” Abuhilal holds one of the handmade pizzas he’s now offering at Grape Leaf Deli & Market in Downtown Morro Bay. Photo by Neil Farrell 

Restaurants have to sometimes adjust their offerings whether it is menu items in the wake of a pandemic or even how they serve their customers; and one Downtown restaurateur has made his fair share of adjustments.

Ibrahim “Abe” Abuhilal and wife, Marie, have operated Grape Leaf Deli & Market at 844 Main St., since 2017, changing the restaurant several times to what is now a mostly takeout place after the pandemic hit and made everyone rethink their business models.

Grape Leaf Deli started as a sit-down eatery, then Abe started catering events, but with the dining room off limits during the pandemic, he put out tables and chairs in front of the building making it more of a sidewalk eatery.

Among the changes to his Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare is a brick pizza oven, where he makes hand tossed pizzas like none you’ll find elsewhere.

Abe says he makes everything himself, fresh daily — from the dough using special flour, to making his own sauce and mozzarella cheese. The herbs he also grows himself on the family’s farm out in Chorro Valley.

Abe responded to Los Osos after the mudslide that inundated homes on Vista Court, baking pies to help feed the hard-working volunteers that turned out in droves to help their neighbors dig out from all that mud. 

Marie says it’s just one example of her husband’s generous spirit and sense of community.

The simple pies that come out of his oven are unlike any of the other pizza parlors in town.

With the new oven has come another adjustment — take and bake pies.

Marie explains that they pre-make the pizzas, bake them half done and then sell them at the restaurant’s booth at the Saturday Farmer’s Market (starting at 3 p.m. every Saturday).

People today, Abe says, want convenience.

How it works, is a person can buy one of Abe’s pies at Farmer’s Market (or any other time as well), take it home and after about 10 minutes in the oven to finish cooking, they’ll have as fresh of a pizza as you’ll find.

A lot has changed since Abe started Grape Leaf Deli, with several new eateries opening up in the Downtown core and two or three more being worked on now. 

The result is that Downtown Morro Bay now has a diverse lineup of places to eat and types of foods to enjoy. 

But you can bet that Grape Leaf’s cheerful and generous, chief cook and bottle washer, Abe will make the adjustments needed to keep his offerings as fresh as the ingredients that go into the pizzas and other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes Abe offers to a public that has become more diverse in its tastes and willingness to try foods from other cultures.

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