One of our favorite meals at Logan Circle’s Etto isn’t necessarily pizza—it’s the delicious array of seasonal small plates, such as braised artichokes or wood oven-roasted peppers. Now you’ll find a similar spread of Mediterranean-style dishes at local farmers markets thanks to former Etto head chef Cagla Onal, who launched her own business, Green Almond Pantry, in May.
Onal originally moved from her native Turkey to Washington to pursue an MBA, but she decided to follow her passion for food instead. Most of her working life in DC has been spent with Etto and 2 Amys restaurateur Peter Pastan, who first hired her at Obelisk in 2002. She spent four years at the Italian fine dining restaurant before moving home to Turkey, where she became the first female executive chef of two luxury Istanbul hotels (Hotel Divan, Hotel Les Ottomans). When she returned to DC, Pastan was preparing to open Etto on 14th Street, and she led the kitchen there for another four years.
While searching for a space of her own, Onal is cooking food for the Georgetown, Cleveland Park, and Palisades farmers markets out of 2 Amys’ kitchen. Many of the grab-and-go items are cooked in the wood-burning pizza oven and have familiar flavors to the small plates in her previous restaurants. A recent menu included baby leeks braised with orange and almonds; charred green beans with prosciutto; zucchini caponata with Sicilian pine nuts and olives; and arrowhead cabbage that’s slow-cooked with lemon peels and capers, then ember-charred with cherry tomatoes. Onal also makes Turkish spreads like smoky eggplant and an olive oil-rich hummus. Most items are served in pint and half-pint portions (generally $5 to $13).
The long-term plan is to move Green Almond Pantry into a brick-and-mortar space, which will operate as a market/restaurant. Onal says she’s still looking for the perfect spot: somewhere with the capacity for a wood-burning oven to make breads and pastries as well as enough space for dinners at least a few times a week.
“In my heart, I want to open a restaurant,” says Onal. “I like to feed people.”