When Abdel Khila first looked at the narrow storefront on Washington Road that had previously housed an outpost of Enrico Biscotti Company, he thought it was too small to be a sit down restaurant. But when another location fell through, he decided it might work after all. After years of working in other people's restaurants and even leaving the profession entirely for a time, Khila was ready for a place of his own.
Khila, who was born in Morocco and moved to the United States in 1997, has a bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management. He and his wife had talked about opening their own place since 2004, but after getting married and deciding to have kids, he instead found himself thinking about leaving the restaurant business entirely. He considered his other skills, and realized that he should make use of his aptitude for foreign languages -- he speaks French, Arabic, Moroccan, English, Spanish and some Czech. So, he got a Master's Degree and became a French and Arabic teacher at Upper St. Clair High School.
He loved his job and spending time with his two young children, but his desire to have his own place, and to introduce Pittsburgh to the food of his childhood, stayed with him. About a year ago, he realized that if he was ever going to do it, now was the time.
Kous Kous Cafe, which has been open for about three weeks, sticks to authentic Moroccan cuisine, including harira, bastilla, tajines and couscous. Khila sources ingredients locally whenever possible, and tries to only use free-range chicken, grass-fed beef and lamb and the freshest fish and seafood. Fresh herbs, especially cilantro and parsley, and a number of spices such as paprika, ginger, saffron and cumin are also important to Moroccan cuisine. Eventually, Khila plans to add brunch as well.
Someday, he may go back to the teaching profession, but for now Khila is content to instruct only his customers by offering them the delicious flavors and dishes that have been developed in Morocco over thousands of years.