The Zalatimo Sweets shop is located within the ancient Roman walls surrounding the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City. It’s located at Beit-Ha-bad street, in the same place as the stairs to the Coptic Patriarchate situated on the roof of the Holy Sepulchre.
The history of the place started with Mohammed Zalatimo who opened in 1860 a small pastry shop which offered the Mutabak pastry as a take away product . The following generations have carried on the tradition, all the way down to his great-grandson Mohammad Zalatimo. The family has also three additional sweet shops in Jerusalem, two in Ramallah and two in Amman.
The shop is very small, with only few tables which are often shared by strangers eating together. the place serves only the Mutabak, the specialty of the Zalatimo family. The Mutabak made of normal dough used for baking bread, but it’s rolled not by machine. The rolling starts from small dough ball and is made by hand in front of the customer, and is a part of the special experience in the place.
When the dough is thin enough, small amount of cheese or nuts is added. The cheese is normal white curd cheese, which starts out being salty, and is soaked in water to draw out the salt
The Mutabak is folded into a square and baked for several minutes until golden brown. After baking the Mutabak is cut into four squares, covered in sugar syrup and powdered sugar is sprinkled on top. The Mutabak must be eaten fast as long as it’s hot and crispy.
The Old City in Jerusalem hides uncountable mysteries behind each door, under each floor tile. Behind the only locked door of the Zalatimo's family sweet shop there is an entire high ceiling room hosting an old arch from the Roman Empire. Although the door use to be locked, they will probably show it if requested (prepare some tip)
And in case after all these photos and comments we have not convinced you yet that Zalatimo's mutabak are a "must" to try in Jerusalem, probably listening to what Yotam Ottolenghi says will finally do it. Ottolenghi is one of the most important and worldwide recognized chefs from the Middle East. Together with Sami Tamimi they have written "Jerusalem", a great edition and great collection of recipes from this side of the Mediterranean. Check out Ottolenghi's first impressions in this video extracted from a BBC documentary recorded at the Zalatimo Sweet shop.