In our next installment of Arlington Storefront Stories, our very own Mitzi Pallotta sat down with the owners of Magic Bites to learn more about the Turkish bakery and café. What she discovers is enlightening and sure to sweeten your day.
Mitzi: I sat down with Elif, the owner of Magic Bites, after a busy morning in the office. Atilla Ozkeffli (Elif's husband) offered me coffee - American or Turkish. I chose the Turkish. It was very bold, just as Elif described it to be. We drank the coffee after the coffee grains settled to the bottom of the cup. Elif explained that in Turkey, there are people who will read your future in the coffee grounds. When you are finished with your coffee and the grains cool, you turn the cup upside down onto the saucer. The person will read the grounds on your plate and in the cup to predict your future. While Elif and Atilla make a great cup of coffee, they aren't in the business of predicting futures. But Elif did shed light on how Magic Bites came to Arlington, and what makes it so special to live and work here.
Here are her responses to our question and answer session.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to establish your store in Arlington.
With all the unrest in Turkey, we wanted to provide an opportunity for our children to live in America. We wanted to teach our children that it is never too late to change your life; whether it's where you live or what you do.
In Turkey, Atilla was an electrical engineer who worked for a defense company and I was a successful interior designer for 23 years. I designed corporate offices, newsrooms and restaurants. Cooking actually started out as a hobby for me. Part of my contract with the owners of the restaurants I designed, was that upon completion of my work, I would work in the kitchen so I could learn from the chef. Because of this, I have been trained by some of the best chefs in Turkey.
When I was training under these various chefs, I had no idea that I would open a bakery/café and no intention of moving out of the country. I do believe in fate and that everything in life happens for a reason.
We wanted to establish our bakery/café in an area that is diverse and welcoming so our children wouldn't feel like outsiders. Arlington is like a welcoming village. The people are kind, helpful and supportive.
What is your most popular item so far?
I would say the most popular is Muhammara (a red pepper spread) and hummus. Some people aren't aware that there are different types of hummus depending on the region of Turkey it is derived from. The spanakopita (spinach pie) is also gaining popularity.
What is your personal favorite and why?
I don't have a favorite dish but I do like to cook more than bake. I like to make the Eastern-inspired sides and soups. Each day we have 2 soups; lentil and something else.
What inspires you to create new and interesting dishes for Magic Bites?
I am very open to new spices, beans and tastes. Whenever I would travel to a new country for vacation, my first stop, before museums or any place else, would be the market. I create new foods and variations of foods from smell. I don't start with a recipe; I start with the smell of spices.
What is the one ingredient you couldn't do without?
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I am highly motivated by the community and our customers. One customer told me that after eating my homemade food (soup and sandwich daily), which has no preservatives, her stomach ailments went away. This story made me so happy! We have started to do catering for church meetings, business meetings and parties. We also have items for sale at Wilson's Farm now.
What do you miss most about living and working in Turkey?
Our family and friends. Also the routines and customs we had there.
What do you love most about working in Arlington?
The community. It has been so supportive and kind. We are so happy to be here.
Do you know of an Arlington business that should be covered? Just let us know! Leave a comment or email: firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestion.
Previous Storefront Stories: Torch Light Music School