Metro Detroiters looking for unexpected dining experiences that also serve halal food will have a coastal Italian option in West Dearborn as soon as mid-May. Hisham Diab, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, is behind the project, which he’s calling Tiliani (derived from Arabic for “Italian”). Diab did a stint working under Jared Gadbaw when at the Michelin-starred restaurant Marea in New York. Gadbaw has since gone on open Oak and Reel in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction neighborhood.
Diab tells Eater that Tiliani, located at 1002 South Military Dr., will lean heavily on seafood, high-quality cuts of halal meat, house-made pasta, and wood-fired, naturally-leavened pizza.
“We are going to be a very traditional Italian restaurant, so nothing like you know, chicken or shrimp alfredo or chicken marsala or anything like that,” says Diab. “It’s going to be very focused on Mediterranean coastal seafood and fine meats.”
In addition, the establishment will feature a full bar — a departure from the many halal dining establishments that do not serve alcohol — and an outdoor patio. Diab says the outdoor seating area will be open at least part of the year and heated during colder months, offering diners who are uncomfortable with being around alcohol an alternative space to enjoy their meals.
Diab says he grew up in a traditional Muslim Lebanese household in Detroit where food was always on the dinner table, ready for anyone who might stop by to visit.
“I’ve always been inspired by watching my parents and grandparents have people over all the time [to] host dinner parties, those were the most enjoyable moments for me growing up, just having people over, everyone’s eating,” says Diab. “Nobody’s upset when they’re around food.”
Diab began his culinary journey at Oakland Community College, before cutting his teeth in the kitchen at Cafe Cortina in Farmington Hills and making the leap to Hyde Park to round out his education at the CIA. It was then in New York that Diab was brought in as an extern under Gadbaw during his time at the lauded Marea.
“While I was working [at Marea], I grew my love even more for cooking on the fine dining Italian side,” says Diab. “With my background at Cafe Cortina and working for Jared at Marea, I kind of found my own style, and want to just offer what I think really good and traditional Italian seafood is to everybody.”
After completing culinary school, Diab spent some time consulting overseas in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Qatar, before returning to Michigan. Back in metro Detroit, he opened a short-lived, fast-casual spot inside a gas station in Livonia from 2021 to the end of 2022 called Pump 5 Grille.
“I was able to really offer the food that I like to eat on a comfort level and on a carryout level so it was fun,” says Diab. “But this is something that I’ve craved since I decided to be a chef.”