When Lucca opened,more than a few people probably thought first time restaurateur and owner Cem Mirap had a few screws loose for opening a restaurant/cafe/bar on an obscure corner (and with new view no less!) in Bebek in a space that once occupied a bank!
10 years later, Cem (I can call him that because we've become friends through the years) proved everyone wrong because he didn't have a few screws loose and Lucca is still one of the most popular venues in Istanbul! I've lost count on the number of times I've been to Lucca and can also remember the first meal I had there 10 years ago!
For years, Cem has been asked "why don't you open a branch of Lucca in another part of town?" The smart person that he is, his answer has always been "no, I don't plan on opening a branch of Lucca, however, I might at some point open a totally new eatery with a different concept".
Well... that day is now, or rather it was May 8, 2014 when Cantinery opened its doors to the public at the 8 month-old Zorlu Center in Levazım, Istanbul.
It took a little longer than expected for the "Coming Soon from the owner of Lucca" sign to come down, but it was definitely worth the wait!
About a week from the official opening, Cem Mirap started organizing "tasting" lunches and dinners at Cantinery to test the dishes, service, etc... and I was happy when I was invited to one of these events... I attended the final "tasting" dinner the night before the official opening.
I arrived at Cantinery at about 8:00pm with lots of anticipation and of course high hopes because I know how hard the team from Lucca and Cantinery worked together to make this happen and of course everyone had the "pre-opening" jitters!
The kitchen was abuzz with activity prepping for the arrival of about 50-60 guests under the leadership of Willy Moya, one of Seville's most prestigious chefs and Chef Pelin Çakar at the helm. Pelin also oversees the kitchen at Lucca and is an excellent, creative and innovative chef. Unfortunately, there aren't too many woman chefs in Istanbul. For the past few years, Willy Moya has joined the team and is responsible for planning the dishes at Lucca (and now Cantinery). I had the chance to meet and chat with Willy that night and like everyone, he was excited about this new venture and had been in Istanbul for a couple of months working on the menu; from this point on he will be coming back to Istanbul on a monthly basis to oversee the operations.
|Pelin Çakar and her team at Cantinery/Zorlu Center|
The piece de résistance of the evening of course was the dessert... I'll let the video do the talking!