In this week's Shop Talk column, Daryl Savage takes a closer look at new Italian restaurant Vina Enoteca, and talks to the owner of Anatolian Kitchen about his recent culinary coup: a new chef straight from Turkey.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS? ... Mix together three young children; blend in two restaurants, one old, one new; add a heaping 80-hour work week, and that is the recipe for the current life of 35-year-old Rocco Scordella. As co-owner of the month-old Vina Enoteca, along with the already-established Tootsies, the little Italian cafe next door, Scordella's ubiquitous presence in the restaurant, along with his excitement, cannot go unnoticed. "We don't sleep much," said Scordella, referring to both him and his wife, Shannon, who is his business partner in the two restaurants. Vina Enoteca, at 700 Welch Road in the Stanford Barn, bares little resemblance to its former occupant, California Cafe. A nearly three-year, top-to-bottom renovation has transformed the 7,200-square-foot-space into a work of art. Minimally but elegantly decorated, the restaurant has what Scordella calls a "rustic, modern look." During the massive remodel, the second floor was removed to create a spacious, airy look, complemented by floor-to-ceiling windows. A 40-foot-long, red-brick wall, built in 1886, separates the dining area from the bar, and is a stark reminder of the rich history of the building, which is classified as an historic landmark. "The brick wall is part of the original Stanford family farm. You can still see where the windows were," he said.
Serving authentic Italian, farm-to-table cuisine in a palatial atmosphere is what separates Vina Enoteca from other restaurants in the area, according to Scordella. "We're more upscale than most other Italian places and our customers feel like they're getting quality dishes. Plus, everything is made in-house." Pointing to several viewing windows into the kitchen, he said, "Our specialty is fresh pasta and you can watch it being made." And beginning in 2017, the restaurant will begin serving Sunday brunch. Scordella also has plans for the adjacent Tootsie's. "It's been about 10 years since we opened there so it's time to revive and refresh. We'll start remodeling sometime next year. It will still be a sandwich shop but we're going to expand on our baked goods," he said. The scant, 680-square-footage of Tootsie's will remain the same, according to Scordella, "but we are able to free up space for our lunch and catering now that we have a full production bakery in Vina Enoteca."
TV CHEF COMES TO ANATOLIAN KITCHEN ... Anatolian Kitchen, the Turkish restaurant at 2323 Birch St. in Palo Alto, just got a little more authentic. As the restaurant enters its seventh year, owner Dino Tekdemir has scored big time. He was able to snag one of Istanbul's most renowned chefs. Labeled in his country as a distinguished chef and Turkish TV personality, Korhan Buyuksuda, whom Tekdemir describes as a "bigger-than-life personality," arrived at Anatolian Kitchen this week. It is there that the new chef is creating a special menu for the restaurant, featuring "Old World Ottoman cuisine, techniques and flavors," Tekdemir said. "The dishes he will be making are very unique with the use and mixture of exotic spices. We will be upscaling our menu with traditional Ottoman food that evolved along the historic spice roads crisscrossing historical Ottoman Turkey."
It wasn't easy for Buyuksuda to get to the U.S. from Turkey. "We had to hire immigration lawyers. There was lots of paperwork. And it cost a lot of money and time too. It took a full year to get him here," Tekdemir said.
In the meantime, Tekdemir is actively searching for a second location for Anatolian Kitchen. The intent is that the new chef will eventually work in the new restaurant. Tekdemir is hopeful he will find a space in Palo Alto, but has now extended his search throughout the Bay Area. "So he (Buyuksuda) is living with us for now, but depending on where I find a new spot for the next restaurant, that's where he will move to," Tekdemir said. Buyuksuda is familiar with American culture and language because he attended culinary school in the U.S, according to Tekdemir. Since that time, he has worked at several high-end hotels in Istanbul as an executive chef and had his own TV cooking show in his native Turkey. Said Tekdemir, "We're very excited everything has worked out and he's finally here. Finally."
Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? Daryl Savage will check them out. Email [email protected]