Though a new forest green awning featuring a picture of a kabob has been displayed on South State Street for several weeks, Ann Arbor residents will have to wait a few more months to try the forthcoming restaurant’s Mediterranean dishes.
The eatery, called La Marsa Mediterranean Cuisine, is expected to open early this summer, Co-owner of La Marsa Fidel Gannouni, a Michigan resident said. The establishment is filling the 301 South State St. space formerly occupied by Così, which closed in December.
Though the restaurant has other locations throughout Michigan in Farmington Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Troy and Waterford, this will be the establishment’s first Ann Arbor spot.
“Ann Arbor (was) always a dream to me,” Gannouni said, adding that South State Street is an ideal location because of its proximity to Central Campus, the Michigan Theater and the State Theatre.
In addition to offering a variety of Mediterranean foods, La Marsa will have specialty dishes, like the Egyptian entrée koshary — a dish Gannouni described as a mix of rice, pasta, tomato paste, spices, lentils and fried onions. The restaurant will also serve a special bread pudding called omo ali, which contains French bread, honey, rosewater and mixed nuts.
“There is so much fast food in Ann Arbor,” Gannouni said. “I want to serve (students) fresh, quality and quantity.”
Ed Davidson, who owns the building occupied by La Marsa, and is also the owner of Bivouac on South State Street, expressed his excitement that a Michigan resident’s business is moving into the space.
“I wanted fresh food, and the food is excellent,” Davidson said, adding that he’s eaten at one the other La Marsa locations.
Così closed its location since it had problems paying rent, Davidson said, adding that he has high hopes for La Marsa.
“(State Street) has become quite an entertainment district in Ann Arbor,” Davidson said. “People are expecting a little more than fast food, and now they’ll have it.”
Gannouni said he hopes the opening coincides with the Ann Arbor Art Fair.
Workers at two Mediterranean restaurants already near campus have differing opinions on the impact La Marsa’s opening will have on their businesses.
Ali Ramlawi, owner of Jerusalem Garden on South Fifth Avenue, said he doesn’t think La Marsa will affect his restaurant.
“I’m sure we (will) share the same clientele sometimes, but I don’t think it’ll have any impact,” Ramlawi said. “We’re a niche with a pretty strong following.”
But Christine McGinn, an employee at Pita Kabob Grill on East William Street, said the addition of another Mediterranean restaurant will likely have a negative effect on the establishment.
“I assume having another Mediterranean restaurant a block away will split business,” McGinn said.
Tom Heywood, director of the State Street Association, expressed optimism about La Marsa’s potential in the city.
“The more restaurants in some ways, the better off (we are) because there are more choices,” Heywood said. “We look at them all as part of the family.”
Gannouni said he is happy to be joining State Street and that he is eager to contribute to the diversity of cultures in the city.
“I want to add something to Ann Arbor,” Gannouni said. “Ann Arbor is an international place.”
— Daily News Editor Dylan Cinti contributed to this report.