Sunday, December 9, 2012

Farewell, İnci

The marble slab below the door sagged on one side, worn concave by the countless thousands of shoes that had trod upon it over the last 68 years.

Photo: Athens Voice
Until this weekend, many feet still passed through the threshold of İnci Pastanesi each day, especially on weekends, when Turkish families, couples, and not a few tourists would crowd into the long, narrow pastry shop, grabbing a plate of profiteroles drenched in chocolate syrup to eat at one of the small, low tables along the wall opposite the counter.

Neatly printed signs above them read, "We don't have any table service" and "We don't have any other outlets." Boxes covered in shiny wrapping paper lined the upper walls, interspersed with tidy spools of equally colorful ribbon. Sometimes a face might peek out from the loft office, above the cash register and next to one of the framed photos of Atatürk. In the back, partly visible through an open doorway, a seemingly un-diminishing pyramid of pastry puffs were continually hand-filled with custard, while chocolate churned in a large white vat.

The eviction. Photo: Radikal
Opened in 1944 by Lukas Zigoridis, an Istanbullu of Albanian Greek origin, İnci hearkened back to an earlier time when Istanbul, and the Beyoğlu district in particular, was a place where religious minorities -- Greeks, Armenians, Jews -- and various residents of European descent made up nearly half of the population and İstiklal Caddesi was a grand avenue lined with fashionable local shops and elite residences.

Shuttered for good. Photo: Aktif Haber
Following anti-Greek riots in 1955, mass rural-to-urban migration, and a host of other factors, today's Istanbul is overwhelmingly Turkish and İstiklal Caddesi is home to three Starbucks, a Burger King, a Sephora, and a Gap (just to name a few). The fading memories of Beyoğlu's cosmopolitan past lend a melancholy undertone to the bustling and often rowdy neighborhood, where this history lingers only in the quiet, tucked-away old churches, in the Greek- and Armenian-origin dishes served at local meyhanes... and at İnci. But no longer.

On Friday, the local zabita (civil police) arrived at the storied pastry shop to carry out a long-fought eviction order of İnci and the other remaining tenants of the historic Cercle d’Orient building, an 1884 Baroque- and Rococo-style beauty reportedly slated for the same fate as its neighbor: renovation into yet another shopping mall.


Ozlem's Turkish Table said...

Ahh, what a shame, so gutted to hear the shut of Inci - my childhood passed there!:( thank you for letting us know, an institution gone, sorry to hear that.

The Turkish Life said...

Tis sad indeed. I can empathize a bit -- the old-fashioned ice cream parlor we frequented during my childhood in the US is now a Starbucks :(

misk said...

almost the best profiterol to get in the city! It is so sad to see that we Turks have difficulty in living with local cultures and history... always have to load new ideological settings and the one in fashion is commerce! but, still, if you still want to get some really tasty profiterol at Istiklal, stop by at Le Bon patissery at Tünel, on the street, should be next to Richmond. Best:)

The Turkish Life said...

Thanks for the tip! Alas it's not the taste of the profiterole I find so irreplaceable as the history and atmosphere...

misk said...

Well, Le Bon has a story of its own. They claim to be the original Le Bon patisserie but we would always wonder if that were so. original Le Bon was established in 1840, according to a meticulously researching blogger:
and I do bet the profiterole is better!!