Konstantinos Pitsillides isn't exaggerating when he calls the plump dumplings known as manti a "sensitive issue."
Just ask the diner of Turkish descent who picked a fight with the Kanella chef/owner one recent evening. The diner asked "how dare I make manti?" said the Cypriot chef, culturally conscious of the dish thanks to Turkey's invasion and occupation of part of his Mediterranean island homeland. "I asked, 'Did you like it?' He said it's one of the best he's ever had."
Turks are prideful about manti in part because it can be traced to the Ottoman Empire, but its populist deliciousness has universal appeal. Starting with a delicate dough, mixed with milk instead of butter or oil, Pitsillides fills each pinched-up pocket with lean ground lamb seasoned with clove and grated onion. Arranged on a shallow plate filled with garlicky yogurt sauce, the dumplings are dressed with chopped parsley, plus brown butter imbued with paprika, mint, and Turkish red pepper.
It's good enough to both start and end a dinner argument.
Manti, $9, Kanella, 1001 Spruce St., 215-922-1773, kanellarestaurant.com.
- Drew Lazor