Oompa Loompyas' Alvarez Talks Business, Heritage, and Culture


20217287_10104018033136236_1801513875_n.jpgWhether you've eaten at Oompa Loompyas, seen them at a festival, or just heard of them, you know their restaurant has a good reputation in Syracuse. We sat down Oompa Loompyas' Founder and Owner, Zell Alvarez to ask her some questions about her award winning lumpias and how she got her start in Syracuse.

Read our interview with her below!

Sample her award winning Lumpias at the Greater Syracuse Arts and Culture Festival on August 18th! 


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Arts & Culture Fest - Refugees, Diversity, Food and more! 1 Month from today!

What does Assad Almajid, a refugee from Syria have in common with Azella who is the first in her family of Filipino immigrants to be born in this country? They both have started food businesses in Syracuse that will be vendors at the Greater Syracuse Arts & Culture Festival one month from today!


Included in your ticket are 15 free food samples - Louisiana, Southern Fusion, Irish, Syrian, Jamaican, Italian, Puerto Rican, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Filipino, Mexican, Indian and Pakistani Food!

In times like these, events like this one can truly bring people together and break down barriers between what divides us. We hear so often lately how divided we are as a country but our message is one of unity and togetherness. Food is something we all have in common and brings people together more than anything. Join us to celebrate the Art and Diversity that makes Syracuse beautiful. Click here and buy your ticket.


In addition to 15 food vendors, we have 30+ Art vendors - organizations such as Syracuse Stage and Onondaga Historical Association to individual Arts & Crafts makers who will be selling their work. We're expecting to sell out of tickets so you'll want to get yours now. Click here and RSVP.

Are you involved in a company or organization that would like to have a featured vendor spot at the event and reach thousands of CNY residents, gaining positive PR, awareness and new customers? Click here and become a sponsor.

From Sarah, With Love- First Pakistani Food Business Opens in Syracuse


 Sarah Robin is excited to announce that Punjabi Girl Catering, Syracuse's first Pakistani restaurant, will be opening soon! We interviewed her to find out where she draws her influences, how she got her start, and why she believes in Syracuse!

Sample her delicious food at the Greater Syracuse Arts and Cultural Fest on August 18th or order today!  


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America's 1st Syrian Ice Cream Maker Launches in Syracuse

Image of John DeSantis and Assad Almajid

John DeSantis, left, and Assad Almajid, right

Assad Almajid is launching the first ever Syrian ice cream restaurant in the United States right here in Syracuse! It’s called Sinbad’s Sweets and Ice Cream, LLC. After debuting at the Greater Syracuse Arts and Culture Festival, Assad will be starting his business in our beautiful city. Today, we sat down with Assad to get a little bit of background about him and ask him why he believes in Syracuse. 

Assad’s Background:

Assad was born in Damascus, Syria where he lived until he finished his Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Damascus University College of Economics in 1999. Within the same year of completing his Master’s, he moved to Dubai to pursue a job offer as an accountant. He worked there for eight years before returning to Damascus to open his own chocolate factory in 2007. He worked there until the war began in 2011, and eventually his factory was destroyed by the war in 2012. After his factory was destroyed, Assad decided to move to Jordan with his family where he lived until he and his family were accepted as refugees to the United States in 2016. His wife and four children have now lived in Syracuse for over a year. Now he’s opening the first Syrian ice cream restaurant in the USA!

Assad’s Interview:

Name of your business:

Sinbad Sweets & Ice Cream

What culture most inspires your food:


Did other cultures inspire your food as well?

Middle Eastern & American

What are some examples of food items on your menu that you typically offer?

Syrian Ice Cream

Roletto Cheese

Kunafa - Dessert Cheese

Muhallaia - Syrian Pudding

Basbousa - Semolina and Pistachio

Sinbad Tiramisu

  Photos of Assad's Sweets

Photos of Assad's food

What was your experience with food in the country where you are from? Did you cook? How did you learn to cook?

Since 1889, this has been a business of my family. I learned how to make these delicious desserts from my father. The tradition has been passed down from generation to generation.

Studies have shown that immigrants in America are significantly more likely to start a business than people who are from here originally. Why do you think that is?

The dream. In my home country, we don’t have anything. That’s why I have a dream here in the United States, the country where you can make your dream a reality. I advise the citizens here to have dreams as well. Dreams make people human. If you don’t have a dream, you will think only as a machine and with a routine. If I want to be human, I should dream and work to make it a reality. 

Why do you believe in Syracuse? What do you love about Syracuse?

I believe in Syracuse because the city has died before and is now coming back to life. This city should have respect from everyone because it has come back to life. That makes this city special and unique. There is something there that means it couldn’t be destroyed.

What do you hope for the future of Syracuse?

Love. I would like to see everyone loving everyone. There is love but I would like to see more love. We should believe that we all are a family in this city. We should treat each other as brothers and sisters. If someone needs help, we should ask him what he needs before he asks us. 

John (Believe in Syracuse) is working for Syracuse to make it better. He shouldn’t have to ask for help. People should come to him to ask him what he needs to make Syracuse better.

Assad has a storefront where he will open up shop but it's not yet open to the public. To special order some of his sweets, give him a call at 315-314-1517

Try Assad's food at our Greater Syracuse Arts and Culture Festival on Friday, August 18 from 5:30-9 PM!

Sinbad Sweets Announcement Image



Proof in the numbers: How we're promoting diversity and local pride

Our mission is to promote positive perceptions and improve the quality of life in the Greater Syracuse Area.

In furthering that mission, we're organizing the Greater Syracuse Arts & Culture Festival August 18th at the Zoo. Click here and get your tickets before they sell out!! 

The event is spotlighting local art and diverse food. Food from Syria, Pakistan, India, the Philippines... who knew there was a Filipino restaurant in Syracuse?!? One of our favorite food vendors is Creole Soul, local Creole/Louisianna restaurant owned by Vinita and Darren Chavis, pictured below at our 4th Birthday Party.


Speaking of our 4th Birthday Party, we did the math and a full debrief after the event and found that our promotion reached 250,000 people! See below for more info. We're offering 25% off sponsorships of the event that come in by Thursday the 13th!


We're not only planning exciting events like the Arts & Culture Fest but we're working day in and day out to make Syracuse a more positive place, changing the conversation about our city one email and one tweet at a time. Did you know that our content is seen 141,000 times in an average month?!? Get in on this.


All this excitement we're building it put to work in the community, through our Community & Caring Initiative and as we work with local entrepreneurs like Sarah, pictured below. She's starting her business Punjabi Girl, a Pakistani Catering Business as a spinoff of With Love, a project of OCC on North Salina Street. Sarah will be a vendor at our Arts & Culture Fest!


Just a few of our accomplishments over the past four and a half years:





John DeSantis
Believe in Syracuse

Major Announcement about Believe in Syracuse Social Media

With your help, Believe in Syracuse has been able to host, promote, and support many programs and events which have helped to better our community. Everything from serving breakfast to the hungry, conducting book drives for local kids, and hosting this year's Arts and Culture Festival, has been possible because of you! 

That is why we would like to provide you with the opportunity to partner with Believe in Syracuse. In return for your partnership, we will showcase your organization to the community. See below options for connecting with our organization. Click here for more info.

The Greater Syracuse Arts & Culture Fest Presented by AP Professionals will have an amazingly diverse array of art, culture and with your $20 ticket, 15 different free food samples from all over the world. Click here to get your ticket before we sell out!

What we do: Generate enthusiasm and excitement about Syracuse and channel that energy into programs that improve life in Greater Syracuse.

Why partner with us: We have over 25,000 social media followers and we are seen more than 150,000 times per month. Become a sponsor, associate your brand with the most positive group in Central New York and gain access to our network!

Interested in sponsoring a social media post? Click reply and email!

Congratulations to Our New Board Member, Mery Liranzo Nieves!

Believe in Syracuse is pleased to announce that Mery Liranzo Nieves has been elected to our Board of Directors!  

Photo of Mery Liranzo Nieves

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Syracuse is Rising- Let's Rise Together!

Our mission is to promote positive perceptions and improve the quality of life in the Greater Syracuse area.  From our positive social media, to our Community and Caring Initiative, to our Arts and Culture Fest, we believe in creating positive change in the greater Syracuse community.

Keeping an organization going in a sustainable way takes support from the community.  That’s why we wanted to share with you some new ways you can buy into what we’re doing. We’re stronger when we work together. That’s why we’re are offering some new ways that we can support you and give you the best Syracuse experience possible:

Fee-For-Service: Did you know that Believe in Syracuse will sponsor your event on our social media? Our Facebook page has over 8,000 fans, our Twitter has 9,000 followers, and our Instagram has over 7,000 followers. We have a huge social media reach- use it to your advantage! We can do social media posts for your business or non-profit for as little as $25. Email for more info.

Greater Syracuse Arts and Culture Festival: August 18th is getting closer! Buy your ticket for our Arts and Culture Festival today! Are you part of an arts or cultural non-profit or business? Become a vendor for the festival! Only $30 for non-profits and students or $60 for businesses! Businesses can also sponsor our Arts and Culture Festival!

Membership: Are you a member of Believe in Syracuse? Did your membership expire? Become a member today for just $25! As a member, you’ll get a free t-shirt, a free button, discounts to businesses like Metro-Fitness, access to promotion in our Facebook group, and other great benefits! To view all of our benefits, visit

Corporate Sponsorship: Your business can be a sponsor of Believe in Syracuse! The perks of being a sponsor are huge! At our base level, your organization’s logo would be featured on every page of our website with a link to your website! Your logo would also be included on our email blasts to over 3,000 members. Our higher levels of corporate sponsorship include  having your logo printed on all of our handouts, sharing posts from your business on our social media, and announcing your businesses on our Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram! For more information, email John DeSantis (

Donate: Our Community and Caring Initiative is currently hosting a book drive to target the summer reading slump! Donate books or donate money to the Community and Caring Summer Youth Literacy Book Drive!

Join a Committee: Join one of our volunteer committees to get a more hands on look at our organization! With committees for Fundraising, Membership, Finance, Community Service, and Neighborhood development, there really is something for everyone! For more information about our committees, visit  

Our organization would not exist without your support! We are truly grateful for the backing and help from our wonderful supporters, members, and sponsors! Syracuse is rising- so let’s rise together! Give back to Believe in Syracuse today! Support your community, support Believe in Syracuse!


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TONIGHT! Pizza and Local Pride at the South Side Innovation Center!

Tonight at 5:30 Believe in Syracuse is gathering and rallying the troops. We're having our big General Interest Meeting that only happens twice a year when we welcome anyone and everyone from the community to come check us out.

First I will go over our mission, our history, our accomplishments and our structure as an organization. I'll explain why we're so bullish on Syracuse and how we envision us rising together as a community and I'll take questions. There's so much to be thankful for, that too many people take for granted, and some VERY exciting new developments, including ones we're planning, that will keep our region moving forward in the decades to come.

Then we'll hear from each committee chair - Sally from Community Service, Yvonne from Fundraising and MarkAvery from Membership, as they speak about what their groups do and how you might plug in. Next, we'll break out into groups, one for each committee. This is your chance to personally connect with our existing leadership and new members, as well as share your ideas on how we can advance our programs to make Syracuse a more positive place.

The Greater Syracuse Community is nothing without your positive influence. It's that influence tonight at our meeting and going forward that will make Syracuse even stronger for years to come. Can you join us tonightClick here and RSVP!


At the event tonight we'll have Pizza, Salad and drinks from Mario & Salvo's in DeWitt. The South Side Innovation Center is at 2610 South Salina Street, Syracuse NY 13205. It shares a big parking lot with Dunk & Bright, right off route 81.

Our General Interest Meetings have made Believe in Syracuse what it is today. So many big events, big ideas, and amazing new relationships have come out of these events over the past few years. The central idea behind our General Interest Meetings is that WE BELIEVE IN YOU! You've made the difference for us all along and YOU have the power to make Syracuse even better for years to come.


Positive change never comes from the top down. It comes from the bottom up. It comes from you. That's why I hope you'll join us tonightClick here and then RSVP to attend an amazing event tonight or visit one of the URL's below.


John DeSantis 
John DeSantis
Believe in Syracuse
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Thank you to our Platinum Sponsors AP ProfessionalsBlueRock Energy and Tupper Property ManagementFor more info about sponsorship opportunities click here.

Wednesday: Be part of something positive, exciting and bigger than yourself!

Everyone knows that we believe in the Syracuse area, but what you may not know is how we channel all that enthusiasm into action that makes a difference. That's what our Spring General Interest Meeting will be all about on Wednesday. We'll give a presentation on what we do to impact the community in a positive way, give you the opportunity to interact with us, ask questions and get connected to explore ways you can work with us or get involved.

This Wednesday we're meeting at 5:30 at the South Side Innovation Center which shares a parking lot with Dunk & Bright. There will be pizza and salad. 

Give us just an hour and a half of your day and I can promise you'll get something positive out of it. Click here and RSVP to join us.

Be the change! Join us at our General Interest Meeting.

What: Spring 2017 Believe in Syracuse General Interest Meeting

Who: Believe in Syracuse Board Members, Committee Chairs, Community Members, Vendors, Sponsors, Volunteers and YOU!!

When: Wednesday, May 24th

Where: South Side Innovation Center, 2610 S Salina St, Next to Dunk & Bright


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