Turkish Delights: A Land of Fairy Chimneys and Minced Meat Pides

Story and photographs by Rudy Waldner

A 6 a.m. dawn balloon journey over Love Valley, a delicate hike by way of Göreme Nationwide Park’s “fairy chimneys,” adopted by what else? Pizza! Particularly, the Turkish pizza known as pide. I dined twice on the Cappadocia Pide Home as a result of it was simply that exotically flavorful all the way in which all the way down to the feel. What a beautiful day—welcome to Göreme, Turkey!

Göreme is a city within the Cappadocia area of central Turkey. Cappadocia’s panorama is fascinating. I couldn’t cease taking it in. It was so vividly attractive, reminding me of a cross between a “Flintstones” cartoon and a “Star Trek” set. The fairy chimneys, a few of which have been carved out with caves for habitation, assembly rooms, crypts and church buildings, have been a spectacle to behold. When early Christians fled persecution from the Roman Empire, that is the place they hid.

With this gorgeous panorama as a backdrop, dawn and sundown are particular occasions. At evening, the illuminated buildings and facades look much more magical than through the day.

Göreme’s fairy chimneys

The Man within the Black Puffer Coat
My first go to to The Cappadocia Pide Home occurred late within the night after a delayed flight, the relevance of which is able to quickly grow to be clear. (Climate and fog are finicky through the Turkish winter.) After a relatively late check-in, I requested if there have been any open eating places close by. I used to be directed to a well-lit location with a firepot blazing on the curbside. It was 20 levels out, however with the lights shining on the carved stone buildings, retailers and rock spires scattered about, the stroll stays, for me, a fond and crystal-clear reminiscence.

After I arrived on the restaurant, I handed a person in a shiny, black puffer coat warming his palms on the fireplace. He welcomed me inside, and I proceeded to devour a Turkish pizza, after all, together with a bottle of wine. Whereas I say it’s Turkish pizza, some credit score the Anatolian (Asia Minor) kitchen for this recipe, which predates the Ottoman Empire. Regardless, I loved it a lot that I cleared a return go to with my spouse, hoping to attach with the proprietor and pummel him with questions on his pizza and enterprise.

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The subsequent day, after stacked adventure-of-a-lifetime occasions, I headed again to Cappadocia Pide Home. Once more, I used to be greeted exterior on the firepot by the identical man within the shiny, black puffer jacket, together with a number of others. I linked with the waiter we met the day before today who spoke a little bit of English. He supplied to introduce me to the proprietor, and, moments later, Muhammed Ünal—that very same gentleman with the shiny, black puffer jacket—stepped in with an enormous, charming smile.

Rudy Waldner, in a black U.S. Pizza Team t-shirt, holds a long, curved knife and poses with Muhammed Unal, wearing a black sweater and grey, sleeveless jacket and holding a rolling pin
Rudy Waldner and Muhammed Ünal

The Minced Meat Pide
Ünal opened Cappadocia Pide Home 16 years in the past, and the restaurant moved to its present location 13 years in the past. Ünal focuses on going the additional mile for purchasers and is deeply entrenched in the neighborhood. He has relationships with many native lodges and tour operators. Going again to the evening of my arrival, he even knew that my flight had arrived super-late after many cancelled makes an attempt, lastly touchdown at an airport 1.5 hours away and forcing us passengers to take a shuttle to the native lodges.

Understanding that, Ünal had stored his restaurant open late that evening to accommodate potential prospects on the flight. And that’s why he was on the market the evening earlier than, greeting me as I walked in that first late, chilly night. Then, once more, he’s all the time on the market, welcoming each buyer on the firepot and alluring them in for his scrumptious pizza.

This is a photo of the minced meat pide is a flatbread piled with minced meats mixed with cheese and diced peppers, tomatoes and jalapeños
The Minced Meat pide

That pizza is made on an elongated, pita-type bread. It was entertaining to observe because the dough was stretched, crammed with elements, partially folded over on the lengthy sides of the oval, and slid into the oven on a slender pizza peel. The crust is at the least as skinny as a thin-crust pizza stateside. My favourite model is the minced meat pizza, which turned out to be Ünal’s favourite, too. It options seasoned floor beef and a mysterious however memorable cheese obtained from an unnamed city, all blended with a house Salah mix of native peppers, diced tomatoes and garlic.

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I exaggerate not: As I kind these phrases, I’m salivating. Journey really does create vivid reminiscences.

this photo shows a fire blazing in a pot with legs, placed in front of the restaurant, with a parking lot full of cars in the background

A Q&A With Muhammed Ünal

I additionally posed some inquiries to Ünal, and listed below are his crisp replies by way of a translator:

Q: What makes your pizza distinctive?
A: Massive parts, contemporary style in each chew, and my “secret” supply of a singular cheese. Additionally, our present pizza chef has been on employees for six years, in order that they’ve created a rhythm that fits the restaurant.

Q: Who’s your common buyer?
A: Households and vacationers. For the households, they get their fill. For the vacationers, we offer a singular native dish that satisfies even the most important pizza critic.

Q: How do you market your enterprise to new and present prospects?
A: For 13 years, I’ve stood exterior and greeted all passersby, returning prospects and new prospects.

Q: What’s your hottest menu merchandise?
A: The minced meat pizza made with my “secret” cheese, fatty (not lean) floor beef, tomatoes, a pepper mix, and garlic.

Q: How do you compete in opposition to surrounding pizzerias?
A: After 16 years in enterprise, we preserve our model identify by way of high quality elements and relentless consideration to customer support, starting earlier than you enter the constructing.

Q: What has been your most profitable promotion?
A (smiling): Me out in entrance of my store.

Q: Are you at present utilizing social media? Is it profitable?
A: Being in an space pushed by tourism, we use TripAdvisor and Instagram. Each serve us effectively.

Q: How do you become involved in your group?
A: Göreme is a vacationer space, so we now have to be nice hosts each at work and after. We preserve relationships with tour operators, lodges and their staffs.

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Q: Do you at present provide on-line ordering and/or a loyalty program?
A: We settle for phone-in orders and provide a 15% low cost to repeat prospects that we now have grow to be conversant in after visiting us a number of occasions and establishing a relationship with them.

Q: What’s been your largest accomplishment?
A: Surviving 16 years with a 99% buyer happiness ranking. We even have loyal return prospects not simply from down the block, however from locations like China, India, Pakistan, the UK, the U.S., Italy and Russia. Fairly the melting pot!

Q: What do you do whenever you’re not making pizza?
A: I’m on the point of make pizza. With delayed flights and needing to be accessible nearly 24/7, I’m shut by always to accommodate any buyer wants that come up.

Q: What’s subsequent for your enterprise?
A: We can be increasing the terrace and opening a lodge on the town.

Q: What was your first pizza expertise?
A: I’ll always remember visiting a bakery with my dad and having fun with my first minced meat pizza.

this photo shows a pide, stuffed with meats, that hasn't been baked in the oven yet
An unbaked pide from Cappadocia Pide Home

Rudy Waldner is a restaurant advisor, meals author, world traveler and the writer of “Advertising and marketing from the Trenches: Your Information to Retail Success.” Go to his web site to study extra about him at rudywaldner.com.