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Bella Pita in Westwood, where panini meets pita meets burrito
Plenty of L.A. cafe owners have realized that ethnic food can have enhanced crossover appeal if healthful characteristics of the cuisine are emphasized. Lately, even fast-food places are oriented toward fresh and good-for-you offerings, often because that's the way proprietors like to eat.
So the tiny, four-stool falafel counter Bella Pita is just one of several Westwood spots courting the student crowd by noting its use of canola and olive oils only and house-made dressings. But it amusingly pushes the competition to another level by baking its pita on premises (who can resist the aroma of baking bread?) and by having created a funny and delicious fusion food it calls the "wowshi." This is a panini meets pita sandwich meets burrito item made by filling a pita with beef and cheese, beans and cheese or a three-cheese combination; embellishing the filling with chopped parsley, olives, onions and spices; and baking the concoction. The result is a crisp, better-than-flatbread exterior with a hot, melty interior loaded with, for example, the salty flavors of feta and olives. You want one?
Of course, Bella Pita has falafel, each green-flecked (herb-loaded) patty formed to order by a counter guy wielding a kitchen tool that looks like the Statue of Liberty's torch. You can take them in a sandwich or a cone. There's a tuna pita option too. And fries. Soda, water, some juices.
Whether you select wowshi or pita, step to the compact condiment/salad bar and grab a squirt bottle of hot sauce, lemon dressing, "really, really hot sauce" or another drizzler. If you just want a little salad, there are three kinds of greens, feta and kalamata olives too.
That's it. You're done. Less than five bucks, maybe $7 altogether with tax and a drink. Your appetite is satisfied, and your conscience is clear.
Bella Pita Location: 960 Gayley Ave. (Westwood Village), Los Angeles, (310) 209-1050.
Price: Pita sandwiches, $4 to $4.50; "wowshis," $3.75 to $4.75; salad, $3.50.
Best dishes: Bean wowshi, falafel pita.
Details: Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. Sunday. All major credit cards.