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July 7 2022 11:02 AM ˚
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One of Amman’s oldest Italian restaurants still going strong, and so is the owner

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An interior photo of Milano, one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Jordan, established in 1987 by Lina Shuwayhat and her husband Raja Seikaly. (Photos: Handouts from Milano)
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AMMAN — Located in the heart of Amman, in Shmeisani, Milano is one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Jordan, established in 1987 by Lina Shuwayhat and her husband, Raja Seikaly. Despite the pandemic, lockdowns, and economic downturn, this popular eatery has kept going.اضافة اعلان

Lina Shuwayhat.  (Photos: Handouts from Milano)

With the recent explosion in the popularity of pizza in Jordan — from classic pizzas from various Italian regions, to newer more modern pizzas with diverse toppings — Milano always managed to win over its customers’ hearts with varied offerings and authentic recipes. 

“I am a Jordanian woman, mother and wife, who has dedicated most of her life to serving different communities, by sharing my skills in multiple spaces and places around Jordan. One of the main spaces I operate within is Milano Restaurant, a place I established with my husband in 1987,” Shuwayhat told Jordan News

She spends most of her time at the restaurant supervising employees, making sure the quality of the food is never compromised, and is always keen to offer advice when needed. She said the restaurant has given her an opportunity to express her creativity through food. 


An interior photo of Milano, one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Jordan, established in 1987 by Lina Shuwayhat and her husband Raja Seikaly. (Photos: Handouts from Milano)

“(Milano) is a space that allowed me to express my creativity through food and share it with a wide audience. My desire to connect with people and exchange stories and memories, engages me in a deeper and more meaningful way,” Shuwayhat said.

She said that the idea behind opening the restaurant was for her to become financially independent, and that her constant visits to Italy inspired her to create something new in Jordan, and deliver a slice of Italian culture in Amman. 

“Opening a restaurant was a natural outcome. Being the oldest sister to four younger sisters, I grew up helping my parents support our family, this included assisting with house chores, including the cooking,” Shuwayhat said. 

“My grandmother was instrumental in teaching me the essentials of household management. I acquired new skills as I grew older and I had a great work ethic. It was certainly unconventional to open a restaurant (in Amman) at that time,” she added. 


An interior photo of Milano, one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Jordan, established in 1987 by Lina Shuwayhat and her husband Raja Seikaly. (Photos: Handouts from Milano)

She was propelled to prove that hard work in all its forms was honorable.
Shuwayhat said that there are many challenges to running a restaurant business, however, she still believes that nothing is impossible. Success remains her main goal. 

“One of the main challenges we faced when we first opened the restaurant was managing employees,” she said. 

“My husband and I did not have any formal experience as a restauranteurs and we were not familiar with the language, the set-up or management guidelines. Time and research taught us a great deal. We learned through a process of communicating with people and engaging in every aspect of our business,” Shuwayhat said 

In order to maintain the same standard and quality of food, she said that there needs to be consistent availability of ingredients, although she admits to some difficulty in finding them all the times. “This leads us to work extra hard to ensure that our suppliers continue sourcing the ingredients we use,” the restaurateur said. 

“At Milano Restaurant, we have kept our doors open throughout the years for anyone looking for a good meal, a warm atmosphere, and a place they can count on to receive them. I have spent the better part of my adulthood here, watching as generations of the same family have come in, sharing collective moments and becoming a very real part of my own story.” Shuwayhat said. 


An interior photo of Milano, one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Jordan, established in 1987 by Lina Shuwayhat and her husband Raja Seikaly. (Photos: Handouts from Milano)

“I hope to continue sharing my journey with future generations and see the legacy of Milano expand to different places around the world,” she said.
Shuwayhat said that the most important aspect about being successful in business is resilience and dedication. 

“Starting any new business is a risk, and life is about taking risks. I would advise those thinking of establishing a new business to seek support from peers and mentors who are in similar industries and to talk to those who have already made mistakes and succeeded despite setbacks,” she said. 

Over the years, Shuwayhat spoke to many people who were starting a restaurant business and shared her experience and resources. Most important of all, she offered encouragement and advice that helped them minimize the risks of lessons they learned the hard way. 

Since it first opened, Milano has offered a wide variety of freshly made pizzas, pastas, salads and sandwiches all created from good, fresh and simple ingredients, which Shuwayhat said is what makes it different from other Italian restaurants.

“Our dishes were inspired by and have stemmed from Italian cuisine, but were re-appropriated to fit within our culture. This hybrid allowed us to innovate and create new taste experiences for our customers,” she said, adding that one of their staple pizzas and among their best-selling items, is the chicken pizza which combines ingredients in a new way to create unique flavours. 

“Milano opened its doors almost thirty five years ago, practically ancient in ‘Amman years’ and since then has been serving up some of the best food in town at the same location, with the same name and the same quality of food,” Shuwayhat said, something she takes great pride in and continuously works to maintain. 

“Our restaurant has built a diverse customer base that spans generations and is rooted in our community and the cultural heritage of the city,” Shuwayhat said. 

The restaurant scene came to a grinding halt during the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, which has seen many eateries struggle to keep their heads above water.

“Since reopening, we have seen great signs of recovery and a significant increase in in-restaurant dining,” Shuwayhat said. 

“Most of our business relies heavily on delivery and takeaway, which worked to our advantage as most people were maintaining social distancing and dining at home. We have not had to lay-off any employees during the pandemic as all of our staff have been essential to the success of our business,” she said. 

She said the authorities have been doing a great job making sure restaurants run a clean operation and ensuring they implement the new guidelines. She also believes that the support of family and the people around you is one of the most important ingredients for success.

“When I started Milano, my mother took care of my children and my sisters played an instrumental role in helping me kick-start my business,” Shuwayhat said. “It has always been important for us to support and mentor the youth of our community by teaching them the right skills that will help propel them into the future.”

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