Tarlabaşı: These days, this run-down neighborhood in the rapidly gentrifying Beyoğlu district is the focus of a tug of war between preservationists and developers, with an impoverished population caught in the middle. While some cast the place as nothing more than a den of thieves, junkies, prostitutes and terrorists, many people who really know Tarlabaşı have experienced the vivid juxtaposition of village life in an ultra-urban setting that is the brutal charm of the place. Nelson Algren could have been talking about Tarlabaşı in his epic ode to the slums when he compared Chicago to a woman with a broken nose: “You may find lovelier lovelies but never a lovely so real.”
In almost a decade of living in or near this neighborhood we’ve come to appreciate its blemished beauty, but, as much as we’d tried, we had never managed to find a restaurant worth mentioning.
Then came a tip from a reader promising great pide just off of Ömer Hayyam Caddesi on the Tarlabaşı market street, Kurdela Sokak. As most of our business on this street falls on Sundays, when the street is filled with fresh fruit and vegetable stands, we’d never noticed the little sign reading “Etli Pide Salonu” with a black Camel logo. Öz Develi has been obstructed by the Sunday market here for 18 years, with Ahmet “Five Fingers” Beşparmak working the oven the other six days a week. Here they serve a very particular style of pide made in Beşparmak’s hometown of Develi, near Kayseri. In this tiny pide shop, only a few tables and chairs stand between the front door and the oven. On the walls are pictures of Ahmet in Develi in the 1970s, glossy posters of Develi pide and a memorial poster to the “Martyrs of Develi,” soldiers from his hometown killed in battle. In case you missed it on the way in, the name, Öz Develi, means “pure” or “authentic” Develi. That’s hometown pride.
Develi pide is a type of Kayseri pide or, to use a less subtle name, etli ekmek, “meaty bread.” If the classic Black Sea style of pide is canoe-shaped, then this is more of a flat and wide barge. True to its name, etli ekmek is not going to be topped with cheese or slathered in butter, as it is in the Black Sea. This is a stark production; the dough is adorned with knife-cut beef, diced tomatoes and peppers only. It is then fired in a traditional brick oven that occupies the back half of the room.
The resulting pide is quite light and crispy. We tasted the sweetness of ripe tomatoes as the peppers gave a quick kick cushioned by the lean and lightly seasoned beef. The loose arrangement of ingredients, devoid of any grease or binding agent like cheese, allowed each voice in this pide choir to sing.
Across bustling Tarlabaşı boulevard, in the back of the Beyoğlu fish market, “famous” and “historic” pide joints line the street, serving the same soggy, old fare. We’ll gladly stick to our local option, if not to spend a little more time in the Tarlabaşı backstreets than because the pide at Öz Develi is simply the real thing.
Address: Kurdela Sokak 6A, Beyoğlu
(photo by Ansel Mullins)