12 Jul 2021

Lebanese cuisine with Carla Motta

From Nine To Noon, 11:38 am on 12 July 2021

When Carla Motta told her mates in Ōtautahi Christchurch she was opening a Lebanese food shop they assumed she meant kebabs.

But Carla - who grew up in Brazil and is half-Lebanese - was talking about the authentic Lebanese cuisine she hadn't been able to find in the South Island.

Carla and her husband Edivanio opened the "little food stall" Habibi Pastries at Riverside Markets in the city centre this May.

Traditional Lebanese cuisine features lots of lamb, beef mince, spices, condiments, fresh salads, zucchini, eggplant, hummus and bread, Carla tells Kathryn Ryan.

Habibi Pastries specialises in sfiha (Lebanese pies), stuffed vine leaves and "proper smooth hummus".

Before opening the shop, Carla worked for several months at Riverside Market's Argentinian BBQ restaurant El Quincho - where she still works.

Management at the indoor food market knew she wanted to do something of her own - then a spot came up.

Edivanio and Carla - who has a university degree in business and marketing - have lived in Christchurch for four and a half years and were in Blenheim seven years before that, working mostly in hospitality.

When Edivanio lost his job at a food warehouse at beginning of this year, Carla made him a proposal: "I think we should do something else".

Habibi Pastries is slowly but surely gathering a following, she says.

"We have great days and other days it's very slow because people don't know what I'm offering… but the feedback has been so awesome and I'm very happy about that."