Kanella, the acclaimed, no-frills Mediterranean kebab house in Center City, has had a chef-ownership change after 13 years.

Konstantinos Pitsillides stepped aside in December, saying, “I am moving on with my life’s aims and targets.” Tayfun Abuska, whose 20-year career has sent him from his native Turkey to hopscotching around the United States, assumed control last week at 10th and Spruce Streets.

There is a Zahav connection here. Omer Yazici, brother of Zahav general manager/partner Okan Yazici, is Abuska’s business partner.

Abuska said Kanella has retained its Mediterranean focus, though it has picked up Turkish and Greek influences. He said was keeping the restaurant’s name and several of Pitsillides’ recipes, including the falafel, in tribute to the chef who introduced many Philadelphians to the cuisine of his native Cyprus.

The atmosphere is largely the same: brick wall, dark wooden tables and white chairs, whitewashed walls, blue accents, and waiters dressed in white patrolling the dining room. Many of the staff remain.

Mezze (all $10) include lentil kofte, hummus, stuffed mussels (midye), and roasted red peppers and pomegranate molasses topped with walnuts (muhammara). Kebabs, such as lamb accompanied by baldo rice, are among the main dishes ($16). Desserts ($10) include kunefe, semolina helva, baklava, and caramelized pumpkin. The “taste of Kanella” includes two meze, one main dish, and one dessert for $39.

Abuska started at age 19 as a dishwasher at a hotel in Izmir, and moved to the United States in 2008 to take a line cook’s job at the Four Seasons Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyo. From there, he worked for Michael Mina at PABU Izakaya in Baltimore, Kelly McCown at Ella Dining Room in Sacramento, and Ruben Garcia at Jose Andres’ minibar in Washington, D.C. Next up was Zaytinya, Andres’ Mediterranean restaurant in D.C., followed by Delbar in Atlanta. Then the pandemic set in, and Okan Yazici — who had met him at Zaytinya — led him to Philadelphia.

Pitsillides declined to elaborate on his departure, saying, “I need to concentrate on my own personal circumstances. ... Good things come and go.”

Beyond consulting, Pitsillides said he was unsure of his immediate future. He had worked for more than a dozen years in London before arriving in Philadelphia in 2005 to cook at a Bella Vista BYOB called Mezze.

Three years later, Pitsillides and his former wife, Caroline, opened Kanella — as in cinnamon, Pitsillides’ favorite spice — on the former site of Logan’s, a longtime Washington Square West corner diner.

Pitsillides’ reputation grew, thanks to his kebabs, grilled eggplant salad, shakshouka, and meats spit-rosted over charcoal, augmented by olives and pine nuts from his father’s farm. His Sunday brunches caught the eye of Esquire.

In 2015, the Pitsillideses closed Kanella for a little more than a year while they opened a larger restaurant with a bar, Kanella South, in Queen Village. They reopened the Center City restaurant with a more casual approach in 2016, the same year that Pitsillides was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s award in the best chef, Mid-Atlantic category. The Queen Village location closed in 2018.

Kanella won an international audience in 2015 from Times of London critic Giles Coren, who featured Pitsillides on his BBC America show Million Dollar Critic. The conceit was that a positive review was worth $1 million. Coren loved his earthy Cypriot dining experience, and later said Kanella was “the kind of taverna that should be on every corner.”

Pitsillides, an intense, sinewy man with a piercing, blue-eyed stare, never shied from imparting his opinions, posting handwritten screeds against such topics as Yelp and trendy foods in the kitchen window on the 10th Street side. He posted a goodbye message in December.

During the pandemic still under Pitsillides, Kanella survived by offering takeout and delivery. He said the pandemic did not drive his motivation to leave the business.

Kanella’s hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.