By Kathy Mak
Walk into Sabà Café and Bistro and it’s immediately apparent that the place and food are special. Situated in an unhurried corner of Fort Langley, Sabà is very much a gathering place that nourishes and anchors people. It’s one of those eateries – cozy ambiance, feel-good food, wonderfully convivial – in which, immediately, you feel right at home. Afterall, this café-bistro is a family affair, passionately owned and led by husband-and-wife team Enrico Campani and Simone Hurwitz, and assisted by their daughters Laura, Dannielle and Emma.
Hurwitz mainly works on the food while Campani handles logistics and front of house hospitality, including performing on live music nights. The girls pitch in between their studies, from marketing to serving. Danielle, a budding photographer, is usually behind the lens of their beautiful Sabàgram images.
From living in Italy, the family moved to Fort Langley about 10 years ago. “We love that we live and work in the same community and that our customers are our neighbors and friends. The fact that our cafe has become a meeting place for everyone we know, and love is very empowering,” says Hurwitz.
She recalls how they wanted a business that connected people and food – “Good food and good company are a way to feed the soul; we craved for a place in which we could celebrate both of those things, and Sabà was born out of this idea. Coming together to eat and to drink, to enjoy music and life in the company of the people we love is a big part of who we are as a family, and I think we have created a spot in which all of those things come together magically, where our neighbors have become our family.”
“There’s joy in seeing a regular who comes for his daily Cappucino and Morning Glory muffin or when I can have a parent/teacher meeting with one of Emma’s teachers in the coffee line up,” says Hurwitz of a few highlights in running their bistro. “It is about creating community and being a part of their lives like our favourite pizzeria in Italy where we went every Sunday night for dinner where they knew all of our names and ups and downs and the girls could go into the kitchen to say HI and help themselves to a treat. It is what makes life have a little more depth and meaning.”
At the heart of Sabà, is food that is characteristically comforting and inspired by flavours of the Mediterranean and Middle East. “Every one of our dishes, though sometimes in the most subtle of ways, is inspired by the smells, colours and memories that we have gathered on our individual and joint travels and from our heritage. We hope to bring a taste of this to every meal, from the fresh basil or parsley with which we finish our pastas, reminding us of Italy in every bite, to the challah bread made on Friday mornings with which we make our French toast, a subtle celebration of the Sabbath, of family and of Jewish culture,” says Hurwitz.
Each dish may hold a story from a favourite memory. Hurwitz proudly shares, “There is an element of comfort in our shakshuka that is reminiscent of my travels in Israel, though over time I have definitely narrowed down the recipe and created a dish that is particular to my style in the kitchen.” Her shakshuka is rustic skillet dish made from fire charred peppers and tomatoes slowly roasted with caramelized onions, Moroccan spices and fresh herbs, accompanied by two farm fresh eggs and finished with Kalamata olives, Greek feta and char-grilled sourdough bread.
The name – Sabà – based on old Hebrew, means ‘plenty’. Suitably named, the restaurant has an abundance of choices on offer for diners. Originally popular for their brunch dishes, Sabà’s menu has evolved to include mezze (small plates) and dinner dishes with a rotation of seasonal specialties. Every dish comes alive with colour and texture. Dig into the deeply satisfying roasted mushroom skillet or braised short rib hash for brunch/lunch treat. Lamb popsicles or wild mushroom gnocchi are just a few of the knockout options for dinner in the bistro.
“Our eggs Benedict are definitely very popular, and I have to say, the dish that every family member loves to indulge in when we get the occasion to sit down for brunch. Love is poured into this dish from the very beginning. The salmon is smoked in house, the scones made fresh, and everything from the Hollandaise to the kale or the bacon is individually cooked to create something truly special. Salty, crunchy, and utterly glorious,” describes Hurwitz. “Everything is made in house. We make our own jam for brunch (wild berry), onion jam for the lamb burger, fig jam for the cheese boards and our own ketchup.”
Hurwitz is a stalwart supporter of hyper local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. With the wealth of ingredients and resources around Langley and the Fraser Valley, a goal of Sabà is to serve approachable and authentic food that delights with complex flavours and fresh ingredients from her community. Hurwitz says, “There are still so many local farms or vendors who don’t even know we are here, so we are just continuing to work hard, make good food and reaching out to them to make them a part of our venture.”
Like food, serving locally sourced drinks are as important to the Sabà team. Their smooth blended coffee, called Sabà Blend, is specially made and roasted for them by Fort Langley’s Republica Coffee Roasters. They are also proud supporters with local beverage companies, such as the community’s first distillery – Roots and Wings Distillery.
Save room for something sweet or a dessert as Sabà is also a bakery. “Some of our most popular items are the morning glory muffins, berry scones, spinach & ricotta puff pastries, home made fruit pies, pear galettes, carrot cake, gluten free mocha cream almond cake and very popular the vegan gf sugar free cookies, gf scones, vegan chocolate cakes. We do rotate with the seasons but have quite a few favourites that are always available. We go to great lengths to make sure we have gluten free and vegan options,” says Hurwitz.
Asked about what’s next for Sabà, Hurwitz says, “I have always been passionate about empowering people to eat well, and I think it would be amazing to capture that in a cookbook. Our lifestyle inspires us everyday to move quickly, to choose shortcuts, but I fiercely believe in taking the time to gather around the family table to break bread together and share a home cooked meal and I think North Americans think that it needs to be complicated, but a simple meal can be created with just a few fresh ingredients.”
On your next visit to Fort Langely, drop by Sabà as you’ll be welcomed in like family. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to go back to time and time again.
Sabà Café and Bistro
23343 Mavis Avenue
Langley, British Columbia
Header image by Kathy Mak.