7/11/2013 05:20:00 PM

Conversation With Ana Sortun: On Sarma, Meze and Whitey Bulger

Ana Sortun
Sarma, a new Turkish-meze concept by Ana Sortun (Oleana, Sofra Bakery & Cafe), is slated to open at 249 Pearl Street in the Winter Hill section of Somerville at the end of the summer.

Sortun opened Oleana in 2001 to national acclaim and followed it with Sofra, a Middle Eastern bakery in Watertown. Cassie Piuma, Sortun’s longtime chef de cuisine at Oleana, will be a partner and the executive chef of Sarma.

We spoke to Sortun about the new project:

Zagat: What is the concept?
Sortun: It’s modeled after a traditional meyhane [pronounce may-hanee] - a meze restaurant in Istanbul with all small plates. So it’s comparable to a tapas restaurant, but it’s not tapas or dim sum. In a meyhane they bring around platters of meze, so there will be some of that. We've got a large bar program and we're going to try to do fun cocktails with spices - not spicy, but with spices like mastic.

Z: What’s the price point for the meze?
Sortun: About $7-$14.

Z: What about dessert?
Sortun: We’re going to keep it simple. If I say it and we don’t do it…

Z: Now that Cassie is leaving Oleana for Sarma, who will be the new chef de cuisine at Oleana?
Sortun: Kara Tobin-Chigazola, who’s been the sous chef. We’ve been working on this for two and a half years. People are being carefully groomed.

Z: What’s going on with Sarma now?
Sortun: It’s in the middle of construction, about one-third the way through, putting in electricity and plumbing - all the important stuff. Once that’s done it should go quickly.

Z: Tell us about the interior.
Sortun: We’ll have about 80 seats and a large bar - about 15 seats at the bar, which will be the focal point of the restaurant. We’ll have a prep table in the middle and a cook preparing cold meze. We brought our designer to Istanbul, so it will feel very Turkish without being ethnic. A lot of color and brightness, like going to the Grand Bazaar. An incredible tile floor.

Z: What about hours?
Sortun: It’s dinner-only, with an early bar that will open at 5 PM and dinner at 5:30 PM seven days a week.

Z: Any outdoor dining?
Sortun: Not from the get-go. Somerville has some plans, and so we’re at the mercy of the city.

Z: Tell us about the space.
Sortun: It’s the old Paddock. It was a local institution on Winter Hill for a long time. [James Joseph] “Whitey” Bulger [Jr.] used to hang out there. We burned a lot of sage getting all the Whitey Bulger stuff out.

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