A U.S.-bred entrepreneur is bringing gourmet Middle Eastern sweets from his Amman bakery to Walmart. The secret to his pastries’ price and snob appeal? Would you believe the cost of pistachios, the formerly ho-hum nut that Iranian embargoes have transformed into a delicacy filling foodies can’t live without.
As a 23-year old marketing manager at Prudential Securities in Pittsburgh, Abdallah Zalatimo was dreaming of a hot-shot career building brands on Wall Street when a visit to Jordan for his sister’s wedding in 1985 sent him on a “One Thousand and One Nights”-style metamorphosis into promoting the ancient art of Arabian sweet-making. Zalatimo, a self-described “all-Ameican boy,” grew up in near Scranton, Pa., where his father––who’d been raised in Jerusalem––worked as a physician. Zalatimo’s dad and sister were now living in Jordan, and during the festivities, the Zalatimos held a family meeting to discuss an offer to buy the rights in Jordan to their ancestral business, a brand of artisanal sweets that had a single outpost, a tiny bakery in the old city of Jerusalem run as a one-man-show by Abdullah’s 80-year old grandfather.