Parents, children work together to serve Middle Eastern cuisine at Layla Grill | The Salt Lake Tribune

mid_laylagrill_062812~1Layla Grill and Mezze won the 2012 Best of State award for Mediterranean Fine Dining. But a few years ago, the Tadros family’s restaurant would not have been in the running for the prize.

When the patriarch of the family, Raouf Tadros, first opened the doors to the restaurant on Holladay Boulevard in 1994, it was called Confetti’s — a classic Italian place. While his wife, Leila, initially suggested they offer Middle Eastern cuisine, it took some time for Raouf to warm up to the concept.

“I wanted to do it 20 years ago, but he said no. And you know, I couldn’t argue,” Leila Tadros said. “Old men, they are stubborn.”

Raouf Tadros resisted the idea of a restaurant specializing in dishes from Egypt and Lebanon (his and her respective countries of birth) because he was not sure how such a business would be received at the time.

“I was not convinced 100 percent then because of the Middle East situation and the politics. It wasn’t really encouraging to open anything Middle Eastern,” Raouf Tadros said.

So he stuck with what he thought would work.

“An Italian food restaurant was not available here in the surrounding five mile radius,” Raouf Tadros said. “There was a demand for it here in the area.”

By the time he started Confetti’s, he was already well versed in the restaurant business. He began waiting tables when he was an engineering student at the University of Utah 40 years ago. He worked his way up and eventually came to own and operate several restaurants throughout the Salt Lake valley.

The restaurant business is a family affair for the Tadroses.

“We’ve been working since we were born,” said Liz Tadros, the eldest daughter. “I always joke that our first words were ‘order up’ instead of mom and dad.”

Liz Tadros, along with her siblings, twins Tony Tadros and Tania Tadros, said they all worked at the family’s restaurant throughout grade school and college. While each of the Tadros kids explored other careers, they all went back to what they know and love.

“We all have our degrees, but we chose the restaurant business,” Tania Tadros said.

It was the Tadros kids that pushed their father to change Confetti’s to Layla (a homophone of mom’s name, the word also means beautiful night in Arabic). All it took was five years of nagging and a lot of research to present his father with a viable business plan, Tony Tadros said.

The transformation was dramatic. Spaghetti and other pasta dishes were tossed off the menu in favor of tabbouleh and musakhen. The old-school maroon carpet and white tablecloths were stripped and replaced with elegant, modern furnishings.

Jason Moses, a New York-based architect and family friend, designed the interior of Layla Grill.

“I’d been talking to him about our concept, and he wanted to help us out. He did the whole project for free,” Tony Tadros said. “He said whenever he comes to town, just give him hummus. That’s all he wants.”

Since its grand reopening in August 2010, the food at Layla, which is mostly based on recipes passed down from mom’s side of the family, has garnered much praise from the community and food critics alike.

“My mom wanted to introduce the food to the area 20 years ago,” Liz Tadros said. “We’ve been thrilled with the outcome. It’s neat to see people try new things.”

*Originally published in The Salt Lake Tribune.