Last year, Yusuf Alptekin visited Greenport for a bike ride with a friend. He went home a first-time business owner.
Alptekin, a Turkey native, plans to open a Mediterranean café and restaurant spanning three storefronts this spring.
The Olive Branch Café will be located on Front Street in the courtyard across the street from Mitchell Park. Each of the three storefronts will have a different use. A self-serve cafe offering baked goods, breakfast, appetizers, wine and more will be established in one storefront, while another will be used as a kitchen. The third will house a sit-down restaurant. Outdoor seating will be available in the courtyard during warmer months.
“People want good food at an acceptable price,” Alptekin said. “They want good ambiance and a smile. People need to be able to enjoy their food.”
Alptekin will also be the eatery’s head chef. The 52-year-old has worked as a chef at restaurants in 26 countries, including Turkey. Since moving to the United States about a decade ago, he has also worked in Massachusetts, Florida, Texas and California.
At his father’s suggestion, he began working as a dishwasher at age 10.
“When I grew up, I was a bad child,” Alptekin said with a laugh. “My dad, one day he said, ‘What do you think about a summer vacation?’ I said, ‘I want to go to the ocean.’ And he said ‘No, you need to work in the kitchen.’ ”
He’s been in one ever since, moving up the ranks from dishwasher to potato shaver to line cook to chef.
Alptekin is using his vast amount of experience to create a rich menu filled with “traditional empire food,” such as Turkish cuisine to highlight the Ottoman Empire and Greek food to highlight the Greek Empire. Someone who prides himself on making meals with flavor and authenticity, he also puts significant effort into crafting beautiful dishes.
“Art is really my lifestyle,” he said, adding that he laid all the tile in the new restaurant himself and also created the wall decorations, the wooden cabinets and a wooden bench situated near the courtyard’s entrance.
“I want customers to take pictures, to enjoy the design and decorations, enjoy the music and feel comfortable,” he said.
After living in Massachusetts — where he and his wife, Michelle, still own a home — Alptekin is excited to open his first business in Greenport. The opportunity was presented to him by a friend of a friend who is also of Turkish descent and was selling a storefront in the courtyard. After visiting that site, which will become the self-serve café, Alpetekin said he knew it was the perfect spot. But he wanted more space, so he purchased that storefront and rented two others, thus completing his vision for The Olive Branch Café.
“It’s a really wild area,” he said of Greenport. “It has an unbelievable view, animals, fishing. Whatever you need, you have. And there’s great people. Every day is a different face.”