Didn't I tell you just a little while ago that I would try to make up for my "lack of posts" in the past few weeks with back to back posts? Well, I'm keeping my promise! The reason I can do this is because I have some time on my hands and I love writing for myself instead of writing or translating for others. I finished all the projects I had on Sunday and now I'm between "freelance" work for the first time this year! The "break" will not be that long so I want to make up for lost time - not only in writing in my blog, but socializing as well and have made back to back plans to go out with my friends - to familar venues as well as a newcomer to Istanbul (don't want to give it away yet!) which I will be writing about hopefully on Friday or Saturday...
Now to the post at hand...
Although I am no longer "officially" in the media world and at the helm of a magazine and instead prepare a blog... I am fortunate that many PR firms have not forgotten me and invite me to different functions (wine tastings, new openings, etc.) from time to time and then I write about these places too IF I feel it's worth it and fortunately, all have been worth it - so far!
At the beginning of November, I got an invitation to attend a small gathering of journalists to taste some of the new goodies at the "new" Mezzaluna in Nişantaşı, which I happily agreed to!
By all means, Mezzaluna is not "new" to me! In fact, I have been a customer of this lovely Italian restaurant since 1996 (it opened in 1995)! A little history first... back in the 1990s and until the mid 2000s, Mezzaluna was located on Abdi Ipekçi Street - now the trendiest street in fashionable Nişantaşı (not that it was that fashionable back in the 1990s - nothing like the explosion it's experiencing today!). There were much much less places to go to back then and the "trendy" Turks in those days would first go to Biber Bar (Biber has been back for the last few years too after a long hiatus and once again on Abdi Ipekçi Street, a few doors down from original place, but much larger) for drinks and at around 10pm, most would go to Mezzaluna which was only a few steps away for dinner! I was part of that crowd and we would stop by at least a couple of times a week! Then, Papermoon opened and we would switch up and visit both places before heading to Şamdan to dance the night away! Those were the days!
A very long story short, Mezzaluna closed at its old spot a few years ago because of landlord issues - of course, everyone was very sad because the food, crowd, etc. were always above par! Although it was very big (two floors), it was usually very difficult getting a table...
Mezzaluna didn't go away for good obviously.. they have branches around the city and a few years ago also opened a Mezzaluna Express at Kanyon and recently at Buyaka Shopping Mall on the Asian side of the city. Mezzaluna also has branches in Ankara and Izmir too.
Then... Mezzaluna moved back to Nişantaşı in the latter part of this year and opened on Mim Kemal Öke Street, a street that is now a major rival to Abdi Ipekçi with great restaurants lined up just like it's "sister" street.
So, on November 6th, I attended a tasting of what the chef called his "La Collezione Dello Chef" with a small group of journalists and owner Cihan Bingöl who I've had a chance to meet and know for about 6-7 years now, and it had been a long time since I had seen him, so we had a chance to catch up too.
The "Chef di Cucina" of Mezzaluna is Carmine Antonio Lombardi who is no stranger to Istanbul and someone I met many many years ago when he was the chef at Armani Cafe in Nişantaşı (which has long since moved to IstinyePark).
Chef Lombardi prepared a "small" menu for us which included 3 cold and 4 hot appetizers, 1 main course and 3 (yes 3!!!) desserts! I guess as you might imagine, I rolled out of Mezzaluna that evening although we did share the majority of the dishes!
If I try to list everything we ate, it would just take up too much time and space and get really boring, so I will give highlights and will give you info on my personal favorites. Not all of the dishes were "great" or "fantastic" and if I said anything differently it would be a lie. Also, the purpose of the tasting was to get our opinion on some "new" items that they added to the menu or plan on adding, so we had to be honest!
Below is a sample of my personal favorites...
1) Burrata con verdura grigliate
This is a great starter if you want something light and plan on having pasta or a main course afterwards. The fresh burrata cheese (type of mozzarella) was homemade and delicious and the grilled veggies were cooked just right - al dente and drizzled with quality olive oil.
2) Antipasto sul tagliere
I think this dish pretty much speaks for itself! The quality of the proscuitto, breasola, salami and mozarella was very good... the mini shrimp cocktails were great, the fried sardines and pate complemented the dish too... great for sharing!
As a sidebar.. we were served Gavi 2009 La Scolca (Villa Scolca, Piemonte) with the cold appetizers. I'm "weak" in my knowledge of Italian wines (prefer French, California and Turkish), but did enjoy this crisp white wine (forgot to take a picture of the bottle to share)
3) Conchiglie al pesto di rucola
Conchiglie is a type of shell pasta and if you like arugula and pesto sauce, then you will really enjoy this dish! Just like I did!
4) Gnocchi con cozze e borlotti
I loved this dish! Homemade gnocchi with black mussels from Çanakkale and pinto or borlotti beans...
Side bar... we were served Viognier 2010 (McManis, California) wine (which was quite good with a little more body and finish than the first wine) with the hot appetizers, but as you can see... I opted to drink red wine with this particular dish as it needed an extra "kick"!
5) Ossobuco con risotto alla Milanese
This was our main course and I did enjoy the Veal Shank which was cooked for about 4 hours, but I wasn't crazy about the saffron risotto which was a little too strong as saffron is a strong taste and not for everyone.
Side bar... this dish was served with Barolo 2006 Serralunga d'Alba (Fontana Fredda, Piemonte) which was a very good full bodied red wine with a long finish...although I wasn't crazy abut the design of the label!
6) Ricotta con miele di castagne
Of the three desserts we were offered (pumpkin cheese cake - a little dry; crema caramellata - not crazy about butterscotch pudding), this was my favorite as it was very light and I do love ricotta cheese and this was homemade buffalo milk ricotta cheese accompained with chestnut honey and usually served with fresh strawberries, but I'm allergic, so mine was served plain!
Side bar: we were also served a choice of homemade walnut liqueur (Nocino) and Mandarincello (green mandarins) and I preferred the walnut liqueur.
So, we have now come to the conclusion of our meal at Mezzaluna Ristorante! I would like to thank Chef Lombardi for his wonderful dishes and Cihan for inviting us to try different tastes from the Italian kitchen...
Stop by for lunch or dinner if in the neighborhood... you won't be disappointed and Mezzaluna is also known for its brick oven pizzas which are also worth tasting!
Mim Kemal Öke Street No. 21
Tel: (0212) 231 31 42
www.mezzaluna.com.tr (only available in Turkish)