Turkey’s take on the pizza comes in two distinct varieties. There’s the Arabesque lahmacun , a round, ultra thin-crusted snack topped with a shmear of finely ground meat and seasoning. Then there’s pide, a more substantial canoe-shaped creation that’s a specialty of Turkey’s Black Sea region. In Istanbul, pide joints are almost as common as blaring carhorns, but Şimşek Pide Salonu won our loyalty for its consistently outstanding made-to-order pide and convenient location. Passing the time at one of Şimşek’s outdoor tables on this quiet, sunny side street just off of Taksim Square is a pleasure in itself. Add to that a few pide and you’ve got a party.
To simplify the ordering process, Şimşek’s menu features a pide pictograph. As pictured, the item in question comes in three general forms: round like a pizza, the more traditional oblong, open-faced pide, and the calzone-like kapalı pide. The main components remain the same, regardless of the shape: dough plus toppings, assembled and then fired in a pizza oven.
At this particular venue we prefer the “open” pide with a few toppings. The usta, or master, rolls the dough out long and thin and pinches up a ridge along the edges, forming the crust, which will bubble up and crackle around a chewier center, much like a good Italian pizza pie. Then comes a generous helping of Black Sea blond-colored kaşar cheese, a rich but mild cow’s cheese that hints at mozzarella. Depending on your preferences, he adds tomatoes, peppers, pastırma (slices of cured beef) or ground beef. If you so desire, he’ll even crack an egg over your pide before sliding it into the oven on a long wooden paddle.
A few minutes later the pide emerges with a nicely browned crust and soft, moist center. The final touch is a thorough glazing with melted butter. The Black Sea region is known for its top-tier dairy products, and the food from there certainly tries to prove that point. However, we suggest a pat of butter, rather than a dousing. Just tell the chef, “az tereyağı.” That said, we would agree with the usta at the oven, who explains, “It’s just not pide without butter.”
Address: Taksim Caddesi 8, Taksim
(photo by Monique Jaques)