Atilla’s closes doors to fans seeking Turkish fare

Perfectly-seasoned lamb gyro à la Atilla's Turkish Cuisine, which closed this week.
Perfectly-seasoned lamb gyro à la Atilla’s Turkish Cuisine, which closed this week.

One more restaurant shuts down along the Mills/50 corridor as the economy takes another shift, finding Orlando residents prefer eating in to dining out.

Chris Kaspar, the former owner of Atilla’s, has multiple projects in the works. He said his financing company has made more money than the restaurant did this year and will begin focusing his energy on that business.

“It’s just a pain,” Kaspar said. “Business was good in 2008, but now it’s not.” The housing industry is booming, especially in the area of Baldwin Park, where his mortgage firm is profitable.

The view of the floor from where I enjoyed authentic Turkish food at Atilla’s before they closed Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.

Atilla’s opened five years ago and has developed a small following of people who enjoy this type of cuisine. Those who find the abstract, Pollock-esque art splattered on the concrete floor and the bright, multicolored awnings strung up in post-modern fashion chose the patio section outdoors as their personal site of refuge. Others sought the dark and gloomy atmosphere of the inside more to their liking, which was reminiscent of an old-world sports bar.

Before they closed, Atilla’s offered New York strip, ribeye, salmon and shrimp in addition to their more traditional dishes of lamb gyros and spicy Adana kabobs. The standard Baklava dessert was provided to those who knew about the dish.

Thomas Lafex, who was my server at Atilla’s, said they made their own homemade hummus with garlic, chick peas, oil and tahini. His service was particularly attentive to my needs when I stopped in twice last week to try their kabobs and a gyro.

The restaurant provided food for the most serious of patrons, serving the niche customers who knew just how to open a pocket of pita bread and customize their meal the way they wished. Being a bit of a backwoods girl myself, I dragged my teeth along the skewer tasting the perfectly peppered steak and roasted green peppers as I consumed them with naïveté.

As the door shut behind him with a twinkle of a bell, Lafex gave me a gracious smile, telling me that usually people mix the lentils with the onions and steak and prepare the pita that way instead of picking everything apart bit by bit.

I must admit, as a kid I would eat a bite of each part of my meal in a semi-circular manner, allowing me to take in each of the flavors in turn. However, I did as my server suggested and I should say that I prefer the tastes scattered separately on my plate.

Steak kabobs, carefully taken off their respective skewers and placed on top of the pita, which I ate incorrectly anyhow.

The gyro I tried on the last day that Atilla’s was open, was good as well. The lamb was juicy and falling out of the wrap as I tried to gently pull the tinfoil around the outer layer of the pita. The bread itself was perfectly buttered, flaky and delicious, unlike some of the other restaurants I’ve tried in the area which serve previously frozen, nearly dried-out pastries.

When asked if Tony’s Middle Eastern Deli might have put them out of business, Kaspar said there was no such competition.

“They were open before us,” he said, “And there are still two more locations in Orlando who serve our kind of food, too.”

His friend owns Istanbul, in Sanford and there is also Bosphorous on Park Avenue. Both of them offer Turkish cuisine.

Two cooks worked day and night to provide Atilla’s meals. The husband and wife team made the best food I’d had thus far from the genre and I’ve tried Bosphorous, too.

“We had the most common foods in turkey,” Kaspar said. “It’s not really a family recipe.”

Turkish coffee. Said to be “espresso-like” by my waiter on the second say of eating at Atilla’s, who just so happened to be the very cook who prepared my gyro.

Atilla’s offered varied styles of wine and their own brand of Turkish coffee before they closed, which consisted of an espresso-shot’s worth of viscous brown liquid housed in a porcelain cup you might find in your grandmother’s glass cabinet full of precious memorabilia from her past. I was slouching over the black, wire-framed table having become full of food and wine, but when I drank this coffee, my spine became ramrod straight, my body language telling me I had just had a meal of a lifetime. This would apparently be the last meal Atilla’s would ever offer, as well.

The cook didn’t want to give me his name, but in parting he said one woman was crying on Tuesday because they closed down.

“I don’t want to talk about it, it’s too sad. I don’t want to start crying,” he said.

The next restaurant to alight his or her particular brand upon this location will take advantage of the magic found in the Spanish moss lingering in the trees. Perhaps the new owners will cater to the scene, provided they appeal to the masses who flock to nearby bars and musical outlets such as the Peacock room (located right across the street,) Will’s Pub (found just a few blocks down the road.)


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