pita land toronto

This Pita Land in Toronto is more than just a place for an affordable meal

I recently went to the Pita Land at 720 Spadina Avenue to satisfy my cravings for a chicken shawarma wrap.

You might know Pita Land as a Middle Eastern food franchise with more than 50 locations across Canada – around 30 of them are located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) but this one is different.

This Pita Land is run by a family of four. Mahnoor Bhatti — who goes by Noor — works alongside her mother here. The two of them coordinate their work schedules with Noor's father and brother. They're tried to make this Pita Land location a space for the Annex community.

While Pita Land as a company operates using a franchise model, this specific location is entirely family-run. There are no other employees here except for the family of four.

Noor mentioned that it was her mother’s dream to start her own business. "She was a teacher for 20 plus years. And so, she wanted to open her own restaurant," she added.

And so with that Noor and her brother made it a priority to "get [their mother's] dream up and running."

They opened the business in March 2020, 10 days before the pandemic forced the entire country to shut down.

Like all restaurants, they quickly pivoted and relied on takeout services to survive. Despite the hardships, their business lives today and continues to feed students, professors and others near the bustling Spadina and Bloor intersection.

But operating the restaurant just as a family of four with no other employees poses some challenges. Having no additional staff makes it difficult to operate late night hours. 

This Pita Land stays opens until midnight on most days, except Thursday, Friday, and Saturday when they're open until 3 a.m.

Noor told me it can get overwhelming with many customers and long hours, but that "human connection is very important in [the] shop, and we try to keep that going."

"We are a community center in [a] way that we have a lot of knowledge and people do come to us sometimes just want to talk. They don't buy anything, they just want to [someone to] talk to that day," explains Noor.

From donating food to the local homeless shelter to posting pamphlets about community events on a corkboard, this Pita Land strives to support everyone in the community.

Noor's mother mentions how students come to Pita Land to attend virtual interviews. She placed a table in a corner at the back of the restaurant to create a quiet space for the students. She also keeps a few prayer rugs ready in case anyone wants to pray while they're there.

With many students away from their families and homes, Noor emphasizes that creating a "family, homey feeling is important for our business." 

Although Noor and her mother preferred to not have their photos taken, you will recognize them as the family who is taking care of the community in the form of a Pita Land.

Lead photo by

Arthur Hamdani

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