The other day, a friend of mine who lives in the north of Petersburg told me she had just seen a crane taking down the word “Turkish” (Тюрецкое) from the marquee of a Turkish café there. It suddenly occurred to me I should check out whether the anti-Turkish hysteria had spread to my beloved Café Antalia.
Yesterday evening, I was relieved to discover that the Antalia, which in fact whips up the most wonderful, down-home Samarkand (not Turkish) cuisine this side of the Urals, had not yielded to the wave of rabid anti-Turkish sentiment caused, inexplicably, by the downing of a single Russian bomber.
The Antalia has the most delicious non in the city, and its lägmän, to my mind, has the most savory broth of all the lägmän I have tried here.
In any case, its mostly working-class Uzbek and Tajik clientele (Samarkand, historically, has had a Tajik majority, although it is Uzbekistan’s third-largest city) keeps the tiny place packed round the clock (the Antalia is open 24/7), and the neighbors, whatever their ethnicity, stop by all day to take away the non and samsa, which are proudly displayed in the window, right behind the tandoor oven where they are baked.
So the place is still called the Antalia.
No one seems to know where the name comes from, although I have quizzed different waiters there about it on several occasions. Some of them speculated the name was inherited from previous occupants, while others guessed the proprietors once enjoyed a holiday in Antalia. (Something that is now more or less verboten to ordinary Russian holidaymakers, or at least now much more difficult than it had been.)
All that hardly matters, however, because if you ever find yourself in the vicinity of 11–13 Borovaya Street in Petersburg at any time of the day, then stop by the Antalia. I guarantee you will not regret it: everything on the menu is wildly delicious and inexpensive.
And the non is really out of this world, like a little morsel of Central Asian paradise.