TARZANA, CA – In 1969, Mesrob and Vartouhi Chelebian immigrated to the United States with their five young children with not much more than the clothes on their backs.
Armenian immigrants from Kessab, Syria who did not speak English, this dedicated couple took a giant leap of faith as they began a new life in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. In November, as the Tarzana Armenian Grocery & Deli, home of the Original Pita Wrap, celebrated 50 successful years in business, the family continues to light up their unique corner on Ventura Boulevard with amazing Armenian foods, culture, tradition, service, and commitment.
Attending the Tarzana Armenian Grocery & Deli’s 50th Anniversary celebration were family members, friends, and employees, as well as local dignitaries, including Fr. Razmig Khatchadourian, former Los Angeles City Council Member Dennis Zine, West Valley Warner Center Chamber of Commerce CEO Diana Williams, and Director of Public Safety & Special Assignments Gregory Martayan, who presented a scroll of congratulations on behalf of Paul Koretz, Council Member of the 5th District.
Determined to become a success in business, Vartouhi, with the able assistance of her brother Vartkes, opened the doors to her sandwich shop on a small side street in Tarzana in 1972. At a time when ethnic food was considered foreign and unfamiliar, she began creating new, delicious sandwiches wrapped in fresh pita bread for her customers, and introduced healthy Armenian and Middle Eastern ethnic foods on her menu — and a family business tradition was started.Working around the clock to support their children, Mesrob and Vartouhi created a stable, happy lifestyle for their family while providing a haven for many new Armenian immigrants to Southern California to come together and meet on a regular basis. Their patrons were from different ethnic backgrounds and walks of life who remained loyal and devoted customers for decades. As Mesrob and Vartouhi grew older, their children and grandchildren came forward to spend many hours working together in the family business in order to continue the family tradition.
For the last 20 years, son-in-law Jan Tognozzi has been operating the business along with his wife, Esther. Together they have continued Vartouhi’s legacy of spreading love through outstanding food and connecting the Armenian diaspora to its roots. The family is proud of their “Little Armenia” section of the grocery, where customers can find the essentials of an Armenian kitchen, along with many products either made in Armenia or by Armenians.
Tarzana Armenian Grocery & Deli became one of the top delis in Los Angeles with their “Knockout Pita Wraps!” as written by Los Angeles Magazine in 2005. For decades, customers have enjoyed a famous “Pita Wrap at The Armenian Deli.” The Pita Wrap with Turkey is the deli’s most popular, along with the Soujouk and Basterma Wraps (both Ohanyan’s brand), and the authentic Greek Salad and Veggie Plate. Customers can enjoy and take home fresh hummus, tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves, and fresh eggplant salads, many of which are made from Vartouhi’s original recipes.