Toka Cafe & Grill: A Taste of Albanian Tradition in Arizona

Besa Thaci in her restaurant Toka Cafe & Grill
 Besa Thaci in her restaurant Toka Cafe & Grill
Located in Scottsdale, Arizona, "Toka Cafe & Grill" stands as the newest Albanian venture in the heart of the state. Owned by the husband and wife duo, Milot Bejta and Besa Thaqi, this restaurant serves traditional Albanian and Balkan dishes, marking their culinary journey that began in early August, DiasporaShqiptare reports.

"A venture that has significantly fulfilled us with success," says Milot Bejta, owner of "Toka Cafe & Grill."

Neither Bejta nor his wife had prior experience in the restaurant business before venturing into "Toka Cafe & Grill." Bejta, who had spent the last 12 years in the banking and financial sector, and his wife, employed in the healthcare system, embarked on this culinary adventure driven by their shared passion for cooking.

"We opened the restaurant out of the love for having something, as we cook a lot and are food enthusiasts, and it has gone very well for us so far," Bejta expresses.

To establish "Toka Cafe & Grill," Bejta and Thaqi took over an existing restaurant and started promoting their venture. While crafting the menu, they knew they wanted a combined offering.

Bejta divides the restaurant's menu into two sides. The "left side" consists of breakfast items and sandwiches, while the "right side" offers more traditional Albanian and Balkan dishes.

Traditional dishes are the most favored, according to Bejta, with the variety of bureks or qebapa with salami standing out. He highlights that their signature sandwich, "Toka," and grilled truffle-infused cheese are also popular choices.

According to Milot Bejta, qebapa "qofte," a skinless veal sausage grilled to perfection, is one of the most recognized items on the menu.

"When we started, we thought we would have a broad clientele due to the restaurant's location, where many people pass by. But we also have many customers from countries we come from because of the traditional dishes from the Balkan region," Bejta explains.

"Mostly, the majority of our customers are Albanians because we are Albanian, but also because we produce some special products based on our culture."

Bejta emphasizes that 80% or more of the food items offered in the restaurant are homemade.

According to Thaqi, when given the opportunity to take over the space where Toka is located, they knew they had to seize it. Drawing on their experience working with people and their friendly personalities, they aimed to create an excellent customer experience.

"At the same time, we want to make excellent food, which we make at home. And we like to gather with family and friends around the table because that's where all the fun happens, and people come together," says Thaqi.

"So, this was a kind of idea to give a chance to our community to gather here and come and enjoy a good meal made by ourselves and reminiscent of well-cooked home food."

Thaqi's hope for the future is to consistently offer excellent services and cuisine, possibly expanding their business. She and her husband would like to open another "Toka Cafe & Grill" or something similar in other areas of Arizona—especially since many of their current customers travel from places like Gilbert, Chandler, and Surprise.

"The Albanian community has been amazing, very supportive, very happy that something like this opened, and we are just as happy as they are. That they are happy in themselves is rewarding," says Thaqi.

The couple emphasizes that everyone is welcome at "Toka Cafe & Grill" because they want everyone who enters to have a positive experience and feel good there.

"We want to teach other communities and nationalities about our food, especially Albanian food, which they don't know much about," says Thaqi.

"So, we would like them to come and just try it. … We just think it's food that we love and want to share with others, and we hope they will like it or love it as much as we do."
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