Lezzet Cafe in North Dallas thrives during pandemic with Turkish pizzas and flatbreads
With the coronavirus pandemic slowly wreaking havoc in independent restaurants, sales of other food and beverage have soared during this tragic odyssey. In addition to spirits, flour, and hot cocoa bombs, the pizza has also seen unprecedented consumer demand. If there was ever a “golden era for pizza chains”, it would have to be 2020. After all, there was no need for a linchpin for businesses selling one of the world’s most popular foods with pre-existing delivery systems.
However, now that many of us have nine months to eat pizza regularly, it might be time to branch out. Guych Yazgeldi is hoping for that. Yazgeldi has been head chef at Lezzet Cafe, the Mediterranean restaurant in the far north of Dallas, since 2017.
In the kitchen that Yazgeldi designed with his extensive hospitality training from Turkmenistan, he and his wife Mahri run a small staff as they prepare a robust menu that includes pides – also known as Turkish pizzas – and lahmacuns – Armenian pizzas.
Pide (pronounced Pee-Day) and Lahmacun (Lah-Ma-Joon) are like Italian pizza flatbreads made from stretched, fermented dough that are baked in a high-temperature oven with a topping.
Lahmacun, a thinly crusted Turkish pizza in the Lezzet Cafe(Vernon Bryant / employee photographer)
In the Lezzet Cafe, dough for pides and lahmacuns is made every day. When ordering, balls made from sourdough wheat dough are pressed thinly through an industrial roller before they go into the oven. Whether the toppings are sujuk (spicy fermented sausage) or lean beef with Turkish spices, the saliva-inducing creations with an exceptionally thin crust are filled into pizza boxes as part of Lezzet’s flourishing delivery program.
Instead of throwing dough in the air until it becomes circular, pide – which comes from the ancient Greek word pikte, possibly borrowed in Latin for picta, pizza – is made by pulling two ends into the shape of a boat before dropping it into the Boat goes oven. Yazgeldi says he doesn’t know why pides are boat-shaped, but if he had to guess, it might be easy for hands to make quick. The pinched ends ultimately turn into thicker pieces of dough on an otherwise thin crust pizza that is just as satisfying as anything you can buy at your pizzeria.
Yazgeldi’s intent for the menu at Lezzet Cafe is to appeal to as many customers as possible, so that the pides are doused with mozzarella cheese and meat toppings contain less Aleppo pepper than in Turkey – although he does add anything spicy upon request will. For heat lovers, ask for the spicy sauce made from Biber Salçası, a Turkish pepper paste.
Lahmacuns are a cheese-free pizza and wafer-thin balls that are coated with a mixture of ground beef, onions, paprika and parsley. It should be folded like a tortilla while New Yorkers make their pizza. After leaving the oven, fresh parsley, hot red onions and lemons are placed on one corner of the crust. It’s meant to sprinkle the lahmacun on top before rolling it up and enjoying an incredibly satisfying bite that isn’t all that unhealthy compared to the usual anyway.
Kusbasili Turkish Pizza at Lezzet Cafe(Vernon Bryant / employee photographer)
Yazgeldi says when the pandemic took its toll on restaurants in March 2020, he initially panicked, but his loyal customer base did not fluctuate. “My customers really support me,” he says repeatedly.
Lahmacuns and the kus basili pide with diced beef – the ones to try the first time you go (the # 40) – are popular with its Turkish patrons. His Jewish clientele loves hummus, tabbouleh and baba ghanoush. And regulars from the Middle East order the halal adana kebab, he says.
In his instructions to new employees, it is emphasized that all customers are treated like guests at home, a rule that Yazgeldi himself models. When I spilled the toppings from my kusbasili pide on the seat of my car because I couldn’t wait to try, Yazgeldi came running from the inside with napkins before he had any idea that this messy eater was talking to him over a message wanted to speak.
Yazgeldi says he makes around 65 percent of normal pre-pandemic sales thanks to six third-party delivery services including Grubhub and DoorDash.
The costs for delivery services, which can account for between 15 and 57 percent of a restaurant’s turnover, seem fair to Yazgeldi. “I think differently,” he says. “Hiring drivers is expensive. What if I have two drivers and six orders driving to different areas during lunch? The food will be cold. [The price of delivery services] is a bit over, but still – I don’t have a headache. “
Despite a bad year for restaurants, Yazgeldi is still glad he made the decision to open a restaurant in Dallas after coming to the US through the Diversity Immigrant Visa program.
“It’s peaceful here. It’s for families and there isn’t too much traffic, ”he says. “When people come in and say, ‘Did you see the news? ‘- I’m busy at work. I don’t see any messages. I am relaxed.”
The Lezzet Cafe is located at 6869 Frankford Road, Suite 100, Dallas. lezzetcafetk.com.
Guych Yazgeldi, co-owner, checks the bottom of a lahmacun, a thinly crusty Turkish pizza at Lezzet Cafe in Dallas.(Vernon Bryant / employee photographer)