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Our Story

ilili is an extension of three generations of Massoud family stories. These stories are enriched in joy, loss, struggle, resilience and 100 years of outstanding hospitality making our establishment historic while creating new beginnings. Chef Philippe Massoud’s concept was simple: to revive and bring this ancient cuisine to a public who hadn’t properly experienced it.

Pictured: Massoud Restaurant and Catering Downtown Beirut (Iskandar Massoud and his brothers) – 1920’s

Growing up in the Golden Age of Lebanon, Massoud began his career early at his family’s Coral Beach Hotel in Beirut. He took on an apprenticeship with the hotel’s head chef, where he learned the trade of regional flavors enjoyed within a glamourous hospitality. Because of the civil war at the time, “the hotel was a haven of sanity in a land of insanity. Beirut was going up in flames around us, and the hotel became an oasis of peaceful living.”

Pictured: Coral Beach staff – 1978

The worsening political situation in Beirut prompted his parents to send him to the United States in 1985 to attend high school. After high school, he enrolled in Cornell University’s School of Hotel Management and finished his Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Development degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Since arriving in the United States, Philippe discovered store-bought hummus to be an unholy assault against the taste buds and pita pockets to be a poor representation of the Levant’s traditional bread-making. He was inspired to introduce New Yorkers to authentic Lebanese-Mediterranean food, so he returned to Europe and the Middle East to apprentice at the world’s most celebrated Lebanese-Mediterranean kitchens. His passion for Japanese cuisine and time spent in Spain’s Andalucía region inspired him to revamp the concept of Levantine and Lebanese cuisine.

Pictured: Edouard Massoud at Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne – 1951

In the 10 years since opening, ilili’s mezza style dining has proven to be a success, drawing in crowds night after night and playing a major part in the rebirth of the Flatiron as a foodie destination. As the restaurant's executive chef, CEO and owner, Philippe is responsible for the entire business as he oversees operations with his brother/co-owner, Alexander Massoud.

Pictured: Philippe & Alexander Massoud (left and right) with their late father Georges Massoud