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The Olive Branch Cafe: Turkish chef will bring authentic Turkish-Mediterranean cuisine to Greenport Village this spring

Michelle and Yusuf Alptekin. Photo: Katharine Schroeder

“Comfortable, good ambience, quality food, acceptable price.”

That is what you can expect from The Olive Branch Cafe, a brand new Turkish-Mediterranean restaurant opening on Front Street in Greenport next spring.

Chef Yusuf Alptekin and his wife Michelle are busy renovating three storefronts in the courtyard across from Mitchell Park to create two separate eateries under the same name; one will be a cafe and the other a sit-down restaurant.  To create the larger restaurant they are combining two storefronts.

When the Alptekins first visited Greenport earlier this year, they immediately knew this was the place they wanted to settle down and open a restaurant.

“I thought this was an unbelievably nice town.  A friend of mine told me that he knew someone who was looking for a renter, and now here we are,” said Yusuf.

The Alptekins, who lived in Massachusetts prior to their move to Greenport, are no strangers to the restaurant business.

Yusuf was born in Turkey and began washing dishes at his uncle’s restaurant at a young age, working his way up to line cook and then chef. After serving two years in the army and attending college to study art, he found himself back in the kitchen and spent 12 years working as a chef at an army base.

He has cooked in restaurants in 26 countries, including Africa, where he spent six months working as a volunteer chef for UNICEF.

In 2007 he emigrated to the U.S. and has worked as a chef and restaurant designer. He helped design over 60 restaurants worldwide, creating menus, training staff and planning interiors. He is doing all the work on The Olive Branch Cafe himself, including hand carving the woodwork and painting the interiors in a Mediterranean style.

Above the cafe entrance. Photo: Katharine Schroeder

Michelle, who has experience in management and bookkeeping says, “I hope to bring my skills to The Olive Branch Cafe and complement Chef Yusuf in bringing a healthy, pleasant eating spot to the community of Greenport and beyond.”

The cafe, which will occupy the storefront on the west side of the courtyard, will be a self-serve cafeteria style eatery offering breakfast items, appetizers, salads, desserts and wine.  The sit-down restaurant on the east side will feature waiter service and a menu of dishes created by Chef Yusuf from traditional Mediterranean recipes, some of which have been around for over 500 years. Between the cafe and restaurant sides there will be tables with umbrellas in the courtyard.

Cafe side and courtyard. Photo: Katharine Schroeder

Yusuf, a soft-spoken, determined man, is adamant about keeping prices affordable and food high-quality. “When I taste the food I make, if I don’t like it, I don’t serve it. You can make nice food for an acceptable price. Then people are happy, they don’t complain.”

Nodding in agreement, Michelle adds, “Presentation is very important to Yusuf and every plate he puts out looks lovely.”

The Alptekins have big plans for The Olive Branch Cafe including take-out, delivery service and daily specials.

And there will be no paper plates or plastic utensils at The Olive Branch Cafe.

“No,” says Yusuf. “Whatever you do, you need to do your best. This is America!  People tell me I can use paper and plastic, but no. None of that stuff.”

“We want people to come in and enjoy good food, hang out, be comfortable,” says Yusuf.

Cafe menu items will include Mediterranean omelettes, an assortment of salads, warm and cold appetizers and baked sandwiches on flatbread. The restaurant will serve dishes such as kebabs, lamb casserole, and traditional soups and appetizers.

The restaurant and cafe will be open seven days a week year-round. The Alptekins hope to be up and running by springtime.

Chef Yusuf’s appetizer plate. Courtesy photo.
Katharine is a writer and photographer who has lived on the North Fork for nearly 40 years, except for three-plus years in Hong Kong a decade ago, working for the actor Jackie Chan. She lives in Cutchogue. Email Katharine