With over 20 years’ experience in Boston’s restaurant industry, Mohamad El Zein opened his first restaurant, Moona, in 2016 in Cambridge, MA’s Inman Square. Born in Abu Dhabi, Mohamad lived there until he was 17 before moving to Beirut, Lebanon where he finished his last year of high school. After graduating, he moved to the United States to study finance at Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and it was here that he discovered his love for the hospitality industry.
Mohamad got his start in the industry at Aquitaine Bar a vin Bistrot in Boston’s South End, where he worked in between classes to offset the tuition costs. During his time at Aquitaine he learned to appreciate the true art of cooking, the critical importance of high service standards, and acquired a vast knowledge of the wine and beverage program. El Zein left Aquitaine in 2002 and became the food & beverage manager of Blu, a fine dining restaurant in The Ritz Carlton, where he worked alongside James Beard Award-winning chef Jody Adams. In 2003, Mohamad joined Masa Restaurant Group, working his way up from floor manager to general manager, food & beverage manager, and then ultimately director of operations and co-owner. At Masa, he was able to hone in on his true passion for creating and operating restaurants, growing Masa into a multi-unit business, and it was only a matter of time before El Zein took that creative energy and sought to open his own concept, Moona, in Cambridge’s Inman Square in 2016.
Inspired by the food of his childhood, Moona, slang for the Arabic word meaning “storing” or “pantry,” is a 30 seat Eastern Mediterranean-inspired restaurant that specializes in hot and cold mezzas (small plates). The concept pays tribute to the impact that the pantry has had on food, especially in the remote villages of the Middle East, and each dish incorporates their own home-made moona ingredients such as seasonal local apple marmalade and walnut stuffed pickled baby eggplant. When he’s not running the restaurant, El Zein dedicates much of his time to supporting charitable organizations such as Dana Farber, St. Jude’s Hospital, and Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. He currently resides in Chestnut Hill with his wife and two young children, Noora and Omar. In his spare time, you can find El Zein with his family, cooking, playing soccer, traveling, fishing, diving, hiking, and cultivating fresh herbs and trees for his family’s own moona.