Published February 22nd
Last week Nibble sat down with the sister duo, Amina Mactursh and Nouzha Ghallay, to talk about their restaurant: Moroccan Hospitality. Warning, it is unwise to read this if you haven’t eaten within the last 5 minutes. You’ve been warned!
Nibble: Thank you for having me here today. How did Moroccan Hospitality get started?
Amina: I was doing medical billing. During that time, I would cook at home for my husband three or four times a week, and he would always praise my cooking. Sometime in 2008, My husband had this idea that we would retire to Phoenix or San Francisco and that we would open a Moroccan restaurant and name it Moroccan Hospitality. My husband passed in 2010. I went back to Morocco for 3 months and during that time and I remembered what my husband had said—and I knew I had to do this. Moroccan Hospitality is for him.
Nibble: After you decided to go for it, what did you have to do?
Amina: I convinced my sister to join me!
Nouzah: I had managed restaurants for years, and was working at a dry cleaners. I had the experience and I wanted to do this with my sister. That was enough.
Amina: We started in February 2011 in Malden. We had customers from all over but we were too small. My sister and I were talking with customers about this, and people were saying, why don’t you go to Cambridge, or Somerville, or Brookline? Most of our customers were coming from Somerville, and so we thought, that’s the place. We found this space on Somerville Ave. and decided to go for it.
Amina: The space used to be home to a neighborhood karaoke bar, and so we did a lot of renovations. We wanted to bring the Moroccan experience to Somerville. There isn’t another Moroccan restaurants in Somerville and so we wanted to give people the full experience. We did the seating area just like it would look like in Morocco. We have comfortable couches to sit on, the colors are classic Moroccan colors, the paintings, the lamps, and the decorations, everything here is Moroccan.
Nibble: How would you describe Moroccan Cuisine?
Amina: Moroccan cuisine is famous for couscous and our tagines, which we make at Moroccan Hospitality. We like to use ingredients like olives, saffron, preserved lemon, and spices like cardamom, and cinnamon. We grew up with these flavors and so our food at MH is a reflection of that. For example, we make a dish called Chicken Bastilla as an appetizer. It’s a really special dish with cinnamon, saffron, and toasted almonds. Great all year round, but especially during the colder months.
Nouzah: Our lamb tagine and vegetable tagine are probably our most popular dishes for dinner, but really Moroccan food is very versatile and we have something for everyone here.
Nibble: Both of you can cook, but Nouzah you run the front of the house. How does that work?
Nouzah: Because I like to talk.
Nouzah: My sister can talk too, but she can’t keep the conversation going like me. I like to tell stories, and make jokes with customers. I feel very comfortable with people. I cook in the morning with her, but then at around 4:30, I get ready for the customers. It’s a good fit for me.
Nibble: Any upcoming events planned?
Amina: Nothing official, but a little while ago my sister was telling me that Somerville has a sister city in Morocco, Tiznit. The Mayor loves Moroccan food, he’s been 4 or 5 times to Morocco. So we might do something to celebrate the two cities.
Nibble: Thank you both; we can’t wait to come back for another tagine!
Moroccan Hospitality is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday 5-10 pm. Located at 585 Somerville Ave. Call for a reservation: 617-623-0020; Find MH on Facebook and Instagram as well.