Napoli to Karaköy: Outing at Paps Italian
The unparalleled elegance of the carved metal arches above the French gate of Karaköy to its passage from shiny polished marble floors, reflecting a hallway of storefronts displaying a variety of merchandise ranging from drinking black gold to cafes espresso at a quirky paper craft store and other like-minded businesses that pique the recreational curiosity of locals and travelers alike.
But one of its proudest corners, where foot traffic is facilitated along the bustling and historic pedestrian route, Paps Italian’s premier location hosts a laid-back range of alfresco tables that lead down to a modest room, which can accommodate up to 4 people. accommodate four to five tables. The cooks can be seen in their bandanas as they deliberate over aged cheeses and pasta of various shapes. The atmosphere is like that of Little Italy at three in the morning, authentic in its vibrant and picturesque liveliness.
The air of Paps Italian is just as Neapolitan as its founding chef, Luigi Mariconda, who opened his establishment in 2015, to the delight of virtually everyone. And while it has also expanded to a kitchen in the Emaar Square shopping center, the homely neighborhood of the original place in Karaköy is perfect for a foggy night along the Bosphorus after seeing an art exhibit. or just take a walk with a loved one.
Like its smiling waiters, the atmosphere is quite relaxed at Paps, where stylish men and women meet at their best next to a bunch of friends who let their hair down or a family of four exhausted after a day in traffic jams. The price of the menu will certainly be the highlight of the day for anyone given the opportunity to sit down and order from its mouthwatering list of dishes. Organized at its antipasti aperitifs, or “Dolci” candies, there are pastas, pizzas, salads and specialties galore.
In the old country
Luigi, Paps’ chef, affectionately calls himself Gigi, and he lets everyone know he’s in charge of the kitchen, not through a show of strength but through the exquisite perfectionism of each recipe. Within minutes of uttering those words, a chorus of delicious pasta is likely to appear on Paps’ guest table, famous for its 40-year-old sourdough bread, Neapolitan sauces, a tiramisu that Gigi learned from her mother, and many other delicacies.
As thick fog rolled over the city of Istanbul, the chefs at Paps prepared a pair of dishes they do best. The first was a green fettuccine or “Verdi” with sage butter and Parmesan aged for 36 months. The sweetness of the pasta itself and its richness, infused with aromatic herbs, create an utterly palatable sensation with every bite, stimulating a gushing Italian romance complementing the food itself.
Of their specialties, however, the green fettuccines were well matched and complemented by the “ravioli al Tartufo” with porcini mushrooms, a dance of wild mushrooms and buffalo milk burrata that mingled effortlessly with the parmesan topped with thyme, in this. case, aged for 24 months, all for a range of mixed tastes. These culinary ingenuities saturated the al dente pasta with large circular ravioli with homemade truffles.
The experience of eating such well-made foods essentially slows down time because the idea is to savor it, not to eat it all at once, but to let it sit and come back to it. Perhaps this is part of the appeal of mature cheeses. It is as a remedy for the horrors of modernity and its frantic pace that there are still traditionalists who stick to the recipes and cuisine of their old countries, their families and memories of their kitchens.
To taste a city
Turkey and Italy share a common food history, as with all the countries bordering the Mediterranean. But the city of Istanbul is also full of Italian connections. The most obvious, perhaps, is that of the medieval quarter of Galata, where a Genoese colony has retained its distinctive anchoring with its regional Ligurian past, its cuisine kept intact in establishments like Il Cortile.
And there are also other regional Italian food cultures represented in Istanbul, such as at Aromi di Roma in Kadıköy, who swears by the Roman version of pizzas and lasagna which are, according to their first-hand knowledge, different from those. Neapolitan or Genoese types. And while debates rage on how to compare and contrast different Italian foods, the people of Istanbul can sit back and enjoy the freshness of their country’s palate with that of their fellow Italian cooks and parents.