'Med-Eastern' menu influenced by years of training and experience

Nabil Ibrahim carves meat at Celo's Shawarma Factory.

Immon Ibrahim has waited three years for the grand opening of Celo’s Shawarma Factory. Now his wait is almost over.

Ibrahim’s fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant officially welcomes hungry customers Oct. 23 at 7954 N. Wickham Road, Suite 121, in the Shoppes at Baytree.

“It’s on a Saturday,” Ibrahim said of opening day. “We’re planning to have cosplay actors, giveaways, a DJ and vendors.”

It’s been a frustrating waiting game for Ibrahim, who first envisioned Celo’s while working with his Egyptian-born father, chef Nabil “Abramo” Ibrahim, and brother Kareem at the family’s Alexandria Mediterranean Grill, a popular full-service restaurant that’s been open in Suntree for a decade.

He rented 2,200 square feet of space for indoor and outdoor dining at the new plaza and hoped to be open by late 2019 or early 2020, only to have COVID-19 delay the family-operated restaurant’s construction. The pandemic also stalled the sale of Alexandria, which had been supporting both restaurants with its revenues, Ibrahim said.

After the family completed the sale of Alexandria, Ibrahim finally opened Celo’s in June, with hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Customer response has been encouraging, despite a summer resurgence of COVID-19 and now-resolved staffing issues, he said.

“We got off to a good start in June,” Ibrahim said. “The restaurant is starting off on a good foot and we’re excited for the future.”

Celo’s combines Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine that Ibrahim calls “Med-Eastern.” Menu items feature Ibrahim’s father’s creations that are influenced by his decades of training as a chef in Italy before he brought his family to Brevard County in 1990.

Celo’s chief dish is shawarma, a popular street food found across the Middle East. An Arabic term for “turning,” shawarma refers to a method of cooking stacked, seasoned meat, chicken, lamb or pork on a vertical rotisserie, Ibrahim said.

First observed in the Ottoman Empire — known today as Turkey — in the 18th century, the dish migrated through the Middle East and into Europe and Central and South America.

“Greece called it gyros,” he said. “In Europe, it’s doner kebabs in Germany and tacos al pastor in Mexico.”

Shawarma’s popularity grew in major U.S. cities in the 1970s. In 2012, the dish was featured in the box office smash “Marvel’s The Avengers,” attracting more fans. That movie’s success and Ibrahim’s 9-year-old son Marcelo’s love of superheroes inspired the theme of the 120-seat restaurant, which is named after Marcelo, he said.

Celo’s customers order from the counter and can choose from signature dishes such as chicken or beef shawarma pita wraps, chicken or lamb kabob platters, or Greek and Caesar salads or tabbouleh. Or they can build their own meal, picking a protein atop a pita, bowl or salad and adding toppings and sauces. There’s also a kid’s menu, sides and desserts. Most meals range from $7 to $13.

“Shawarma, the wraps and kabobs are definitely the most popular,” Ibrahim said. “We also get a lot of people who like to build their own meals.”

Ibrahim’s goal at Celo’s is to give back and share his family’s life experiences and culture with the community through good food and good deeds.

“At Alexandria, we were more of a hidden gem,” he said. “Here we want to help schools. Our story has been written before. I just feel like the story of Celo’s hasn’t and that’s what I want to share. Come try us out.”

For more information or to place an order, call 321-241-4258 or go to eatcelos.com.