I’ve mentioned my affection for the great food shops of Watertown, Massachusetts, and my friend, chef Ana Sortun of Oleana. Well, the two have come together. Ana opened Sofra (sofrabakery.com) a few weeks ago. Technically it’s in Cambridge, but it’s at the split where Mt. Auburn and Belmont streets meet (or separate) — it’s in Camtermontownbridge!
Anyway, her bakery/cafe is open. I say “her,” but it’s also the baby of pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick. If you’re an Oleana fan, you’ll see some familiar faces, including Ana’s business partner Gary Griffen stocking a shelf, sous chef Wilton Orsono crisping up shawarma sandwiches on the convex metal griddles (which were custom built in Lebanon), contractor Max Haziliades poking around with his measuring tape, and verdant displays of garden-fresh produce from Ana’s husband’s farm.
It’s brand-new and busy already, so there are kinks to work out. But be patient — the dozen or so meze selections include beet tzaziki (shredded beets in garlicky yogurt), smoky eggplant, hummus (not the typical puree, but whole chickpeas in tahini sauce), and goat cheese with sultanas and almonds, exotic and delicious. As are the aforementioned shawarma wrap sandwiches with crunchy green beans and zucchini oozing with garlic sauce. Maura is also baking her sweet little heart out, with rich almond cakes (served with rose-petal jam), Syrian shortbread made with clarified butter (it should be contraband), and chocolate earthquakes that will indeed cause you tremors. Tradition with a twist — just what we expect from this talented team.
I’m given to finger-wagging, and as I mentioned, please be patient, because again, this food is wonderful and different and worth the wait. But also because anything new will have kinks, and only patience and training will get everyone where they need to be. Last week, their second Sunday in business, a fight broke out over seating. There isn’t a lot of seating — it’s a small space. Apparently someone was sitting and holding a seat for a friend who was at the counter ordering. Another patron insisted that that wasn’t fair and took the empty seat. Evil words were exchanged. Bratty and bullying behavior ensued. One person said to the other, “I hope you die of cancer.” Over a seat. Shame on you.