Written by Cheeravath Aphiphunyo
Persian delight — our entrees at Julio’s Pizza. Photo by John Oliver Santiago.
Don’t let the name fool you when you’re driving down Long Beach Boulevard on your regular commute. Julio’s Pizza isn’t your everyday, take-home five-dollar pizza joint. It’s definitely way more than that. On the outside, it looks like your everyday fast food restaurant. Heck, you might even miss it if you blink. But I bet you didn’t know that Julio’s has a Persian and Italian menu up their sleeve. It’s owned by an Italian-Persian family, named after the owner and pronounced “joo-lee-oh” to reflect his Italian roots.
My VoiceWaves friends and I, having never eaten Persian food before, were struggling to order as everything on the menu sounded amazing. Our waiter, Shaun, recommended number 14, a boneless chicken kabob entrée with tender chunks of marinated chicken breast that were skewered, charbroiled, and served with imported Basmati rice and a charbroiled tomato. Shaun also recommended the fesenjan, a generously portioned chicken breast entrée served with ground walnuts simmered in a special pomegranate sauce (also served with Basmati rice).
We voted for the boneless chicken kabob and were very satisfied with our decision. It was juicy just like the menu said. Smelling the nice aroma of the chicken and biting into it, it’s easy to tell that it was nicely prepared and cooked fresh. Eating it gave me a sense that the dish was not only delicious but healthy as well. It didn’t taste salty, oily, fatty, or anything like what fast food would taste like.
I’m not fond of eating fish but the mahi-mahi kabob was an exception. Served with a lemon and Julio’s very own special sauce, the texture of the fish was very much like the chicken — tender and juicy.
Now on to my favorite dish: the kobideh kabob. This entree, also served with Basmati rice and a charbroiled tomato, topped the others because of its mouth-watering sirloin. It was seasoned with aromatic spices like tumeric which gave the meat a lighter color. I found it to be very lean and succulent. I give this dish a two-thumbs-up and a fist pump for how much it delighted our senses.
Baghlava at Julio’s Pizza. Photo by John Oliver Santiago.
After your healthy choice of a meal, reward your decision with baghlava for dessert, a crunchy cake that is cinnamony and nutty. It’s not meant to be split with another person, trust me, the thing is hard to cut! But when you taste it, I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad it’s that way because you wouldn’t want to share this Persian pastry anyway.
For those a little more adventurous, Julio’s has something especially exotic. Yogurt Soda. The label reads, “Abali Yogurt Soda, Mint Flavor.” Its taste is interestingly one of a kind and reminds me of Wrigley’s Doublemint Chewing Gum: cool and minty with its own uniqueness sourness. Kind of weird for a drink but, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t half bad. Some people must like it, I think.
So, the next time you want to go out and have a nice meal with friends and family, drive on up Long Beach Boulevard towards Willow and stop at Julio’s. A family-owned Italian restaurant operating for over 12 years and serving Persian food for about a year now, Julio’s Pizza is our neighborhood’s secret gem. If you’re looking for something different, something you might not be used to, stop neglecting your taste buds and head on over to Julio’s to order from their Persian menu. You’ll be surprised and glad that you did. Go soon, you won’t regret it.