The month of June we feature local Dad’s for Father’s Day. Every year we find dad’s who stand out in our community and make a difference! We have always loved Layla’s on Black Rock Turnpike for their delicious Middle Eastern food. Not only is it great but everyone is so friendly! They joined us at the Taste of Fairfield and were the biggest hit, maybe because they brought the whole family and were giving out huge portions! The dad Dino is the sweetest so we knew we would have to feature him!
Where are you originally from and how long have you been in Fairfield?
I’m originally a Palestinian from Jerusalem where I was born and raised. I came to Fairfield County in 1978 and have been here since. We now live in Trumbull.
Tell us about your Family!
My wife, Layla, is Lebanese. We have been married for 30 years. We have four beautiful children, Samantha,30, JP, 29, Nicole, 26, Anthony,24.
One thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I studied engineering at University of Bridgeport and Dino is actually my nickname that started in college. My real name is Imad!
One thing you wish someone would have told you about fatherhood?
It’s not easy being a father. It’s not easy raising a family and being in the business everyday. It’s a challenge everyday but in life you choose your life. What do you want to be in life? You can live anyway you want and everything comes with a price. It’s important to love what you do in order to show up for your family as your best self.
What’s your favorite thing about raising a family in the area?
People are very open minded and you meet people from all around the world here. It feels like home.
Tell us about your job, when & why you decided to start in this field?
I studied engineering and I hated working in it. I always loved hospitality and knew that’s where I belonged. My career in the restaurant industry started in a franchise restaurant. Layla’s Falafel was a happy accident. A customer at our franchise restaurant asked Layla to make him falafel. We quickly got more requests for Falafel Sandwiches than the sandwiches that were on the menu. Both being immigrants, Layla and I saw a need for Middle Eastern food in Fairfield County and wanted to share a part of our culture in the new place we called home. That’s when we opened our first location in Fairfield, CT in 2000. We now have three locations: Stamford, Fairfield, and Westport.
What do you love about your job? Challenges you face?
I love sharing my culture and food made from the heart. When I see a customer loving what they are eating or smiling it just makes me so happy. I love constantly improving the food and always finding the highest quality ingredients and spices. We make food like we make it at home and that’s what sets us apart. Every stage of business comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is never knowing what to expect each day, especially when Covid hit. That was the biggest challenge of my career and is exactly what has made our family business stronger. I vividly remember deciding whether to stay open when Covid first hit. I will never forget what my son, JP, said to me that put tears in my eyes. “When we were doing well all the team members stayed with us. If we close, the team will not have jobs and how are they supposed to live?” We decided to stay open throughout all of Covid and keep all our team members even though that was a huge risk. Our doors were open, we were fully staffed and we were just ready to serve. I will never forget customers coming in to make donations to send to first responders and hospital employees.
If you weren’t working in this industry, what do you think you would be doing today?
I would be doing the same thing I’m doing right now. You know how some people get ” the call”. I get the call. I love what I do. I love to get up every morning and get to Layla’s. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Best advice for dads who experience the inevitable guilt handling a career and helping support a family?
Just always have to balance. Sometimes I try to balance and I can’t. Try as much as you can to find that balance to spend more time with your family to see your kids growing up. Alway remind yourself and your children that everything you do is for them and to support them.
Who has most influenced you to be the father that you are today?
My dad, He had a big heart. I learned that from him and now I see that in my children. He taught me to help people as much as I can.
What advice would you share with a new dad or other dads?
My advice would be to try to spend more time with your family. Try to find a balance between your life, your work and your family.
We love supporting local businesses – favorite places in Fairfield to…
Grab a Drink with Friends: Molto
Spend time together as a Family: Nights in at our house
Outside Activities: The trails in Trumbull
Grab coffee: Granola Bar’s Turkish Coffee