ANI Catering & Cafe’ in Belmont, MA, has been serving authentic Armenian and Middle Eastern cuisine to the Greater Boston area for over 20 years. In April, in honor of the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, five Armenian-owned restaurants in the Boston area collectively donated more than 150 meals to fuel the night shift crew working at the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital during the global pandemic. ANI Catering & Cafe’ with the other restaurants each added their own creativity to individually packaged meals filled with flavorful kebabs and falafel, shawarma wraps and stuffed grape leaves complimented with hummus, warm rice and zesty salad. “We love this community and cherish any opportunity to show how much the community means to us,” says Hovannes (John) Janessian, co-owner of ANI Catering & Cafe.
The café was established in 1993 as a part-time catering company by John and his wife, Ani. Customers come from as far as Concord, Lexington and Wellesley, while the catering business ranges over eastern Massachusetts, even into neighboring Rhode Island. Events for up to 600 people have been catered by the company, including corporate and family or social occasions. In 2006, they turned the catering business into a full-time one, and moved to its present Belmont location. When customers asked for takeout service, they expanded, and in 2014, John turned part of the store into a sit-down restaurant. “We owe the success of the takeout business to our son Ari’s hard work, talent, and outgoing personality. We use only fresh and natural ingredients with no preservatives or processed food. We replace the chicken stacked on the spit or vertical rod for our shawarma three times a day, it is always fresh, while falafel is fried only after it has been ordered. And Ani’s garlic sauce (toum) is always in demand. It is so good, I would even eat our toum with ice cream,” adds John.
2 medium Italian eggplants
3 tablespoons extra olive oil, plus more for grilling
2 tablespoons lemon juice