Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Starters

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Starters

Article excerpt

There are plenty of Turkish dishes offered at Europe Cafe & Grill, but owner Ersin Iscan says he gave his new restaurant in Tenafly a name that reflects the broader focus of its menu.

"Turkey is a very mixed country," Iscan says. "Some people make a Middle Eastern cuisine, and some are closer to Greek or Italian. We have seafood on our menu, so that makes it kind of Mediterranean."

Europe Cafe & Grill, which opened on Sept. 11, is Iscan's third North Jersey restaurant. In 2005 he opened Lodos, in New Milford, which he sold to his partner the same year. In 2006 he opened Sapphire in Tenafly, but closed it just a few months later when the building was sold.

"I was so upset because I had a couple of years left on the lease, and I had good business," he says.

After that disappointment, Iscan worked in construction, mostly renovating restaurants and commercial spaces. But when he noticed an empty pizzeria on Highwood Avenue in Tenafly, "I decided to come back" and try again, he says. He has a business partner, Cemal Kaya, who is mostly involved in the construction side.

The chef at Europe Cafe & Grill is Muslum Cinar, whose culinary training ground was at Beyti restaurant in Union City for 13 years, Iscan says. The two met when Iscan - newly arrived to the United States after an earthquake devastated Turkey in 1999 - took a job as a waiter at Beyti.

When Iscan opened Sapphire, he hired Cinar as the head chef. Cinar took a job at Lisa's Turkish Kitchen in Ridgewood after Sapphire closed, but rejoined Iscan in Tenafly after the Ridgewood restaurant moved to a new location (it remains closed for renovation).

Iscan says that he and Kaya "did a lot of work" to renovate the former pizzeria and its kitchen, which was behind an open counter. They removed the counter and created a partial wall, adding a glass window.

"We wanted people to see what's going on in the kitchen," Iscan says. "I don't want people to have any doubts about the food -- that's why I put in the window."

In the dining room, "we made it a little fancier, but it's still casual," he says. "It's a very cozy place, but I tried to make it kind of look like something in New York City, but with fair prices. …

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