Scott Wiener is in the New York pizza tourism business — not a lot of need for activism there, unless we’re talking pushing back against the recent invasion of Detroit-style pies. But like so many others in the city, he’s felt called to action.
Now, the man behind Scott’s Pizza Tours is also the founder of Breaking Bread, a new food-driven initiative to bridge cultures by introducing New Yorkers to immigrant-run restaurants serving the cuisines of the seven Muslim-majority countries affected by the federal travel ban. Breaking Bread kicked off with the cleverly titled Middle Eats food tour of Brooklyn last weekend, and will hold another one this weekend in the Bronx along with a tasting dinner at Safari, the city’s only Somali restaurant.
It all began about a week and a half ago, when Wiener found himself at a community meeting in Flatbush. “I’m not normally politically engaged, but I’m pretty upset at some of the stuff that’s going on lately, so there is no option but to be engaged,” he says. The passion of the crowd that night — the forum was called “How Do We Help Our Neighbors” — inspired him to use his expertise to do his part.
After the meeting, Wiener reached out to his contacts in the food world, and Breaking Bread came together almost faster than he could keep up. Besides the gatherings, the group is also selling a food map that changes weekly (the $10 cost goes to benefit the Council on American-Islamic Relations), which includes a primer on the cuisine and recommendations to navigate the menu.
The maps highlight “banned eateries” serving food from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Syria and, as soon as Breaking Bread’s guides can find restaurants serving them, Sudan and Libya (if you’re knowledgeable about these countries, they’re soliciting contributors). Though their cuisines may seem similar, Wiener notes that the spice trade spanning Asia to Europe left unique imprints on each country’s flavors. “We want to feature the differences,” he says.
The maps are created with the permission of the restaurateurs, who understandably may not all want the attention given the political climate.
Keep an eye on their website — this weekend’s Yemeni food tour was sold out by Monday evening; tickets are still available for the Safari dinner — or make your own tour with a new map every week until the travel ban is lifted.