ASTORIA, QUEENS — Ibrahim Onerli and Natalya Baturova have never owned their own restaurant — but they are no strangers to Turkish cuisine.
The married couple are preparing to open Turkiye (named for the country’s Turkish spelling), on Broadway near 37th Street in Astoria. The storefront had been home to a series of pizzerias, most recently Bella Donna, which closed last fall amid confusion over its vaccine policy and a puzzling Craigslist posting for its storefront.
Until now, Onerli and Baturova have earned a living by managing a driving school with a location in Long Island City. But both are passionate home cooks, have experience in restaurant kitchens, and had dreamed for years of opening their own space.
“We always wanted to have nice, casual food in a cozy atmosphere that’s not super pricey,” said Baturova, who is originally from Russia. (Onerli hails from Istanbul.)
That dream rapidly took shape last fall, when the couple came across the vacant storefront on a real estate website. (Not Craigslist, they clarified.) To help develop a menu, they enlisted Mujdat Gursoy, who had previously served as head chef at the beloved Upper East Side Turkish spot Beyoglu, which shuttered during the pandemic.
Turkiye’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus include dishes ranging from kebabs, lentil soups and yengen toast to traditional Turkish “pide” flatbreads — baked in the pizza oven left over from the store’s previous occupants.
Fresh-baked pita bread will accompany mezze like hummus and baba ganoush, plus rotating daily specials. Drinks will include, of course, Turkish coffee and tea, with the dessert menu featuring tiramisu, traditional rice pudding, baklava and kazandibi, a Turkish burned-milk pudding
Ahead of its late March opening, Turkiye’s interior is virtually complete, having been outfitted with rows of colorful Turkish tiles. The rear garden will also be open, offering about a dozen tables.
Already fielding questions from excited passersby, Onerli and Baturova expect their dishes will live up to Astorians’ high expectations.