Partners Adnan Dagli, Ferah Gulmez, and Seyran Say are planning a mid-February opening on Haddon Avenue in the former Centanni Pizza building.
By Matt Skoufalos | February 3, 2023
Typically known for its abundance of Italian-centric cuisine, Restaurant Row in Collingswood is poised to welcome another addition from the Mediterranean this month: Turkish-inspired fare from OBA Mediterranean Grill.
Chef and co-owner Seyran Say of Chesterfield said the dishes at OBA are inspired by time spent cooking in his native Antakya, where Say began his career at the culinary crossroads of the Middle East.
“It is the most famous place to eat in the whole region because we are very mixed, from thousands of years ago,” Say said.
“Everybody lives there – Christians, Jews, Muslims – all the people, and everybody sharing things together,” he said. “That’s why we have huge culture.”
From working in kitchens as a teenager to his time spent cooking for officers in the Turkish military, Say eventually became a private chef for the royal family of Saudi Arabia, who brought him to the United States to work in Los Angeles.
In 2001, Say left for New York City, where he established a handful of restaurants centered on his interpretation of what he describes as “the Levant kitchen.”
“We have such a deep and old history,” he said; “Anatolia, Syria, Greece; the first farming began there; the first money was found there. Every city has their own different food.”
In 2004, Say opened Istanbul Bay, a Turkish-themed restaurant, in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. Expansion followed, both of his original concept and others.
OBA Mediterranean Grill was established in partnership with financial advisor Ferah Gulmez, with whom Say operates other OBA locations in Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn; and butcher Adnan Dagli, who runs Leader Meat Packing in Chesterfield.
“We all have something different that came together,” Gulmez said.
“Because of Adnan, we all moved here, and because we’re close friends, like family, we wanted to do something together.”
The group came to Collingswood after a tip from their broker, Frank Angelucci of ERA Realty, to check out the former Centanni Pizza and Italian Grill at 563 Haddon Avenue.
Gulmez went down to scout out the neighborhood, livestreamed Haddon Avenue to Say, and that was that.
“I said, ‘Okay I’m coming!’” he said. “There’s a lot of good restaurants [in Collingswood]. I didn’t know about famous chefs and foot traffic [there]; I just saw the action.”
OBA Mediterranean Grill will share several menu items with its sister locations in New York, plus a few others, including stuffed calamari and grilled octopus. The kitchen emphasizes fresh ingredients, prepared from scratch, with minimal seasoning, Say said: “a touch of oregano, a touch of Aleppo pepper; cumin, salt, quality olive oil, and fresh herbs.”
Say likes to work with fresh-caught Mediterranean fish, like branzino, dorado, and red mullet. Dagli will provide equally fresh proteins from his Chesterfield-based business, Leader Meat Packing.
“Adnan is a professional butcher from childhood,” Say said. “We buy the animals from the Amish, slaughter them under USDA rules, rest the meat one day in the slaughterhouse, and then prepare it and bring it in.”
OBA will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week.
The menu spans Mediterranean staples, like döner kebab and shish kebab, to Turkish-style meat, cheese, and pastrami pies, respectively; seafood plates; and desserts like baklava and kunefe.
The restaurateurs are updating the interior of the 48-seat restaurant with fresh décor and a Mediterranean-themed look.
Say will make use of the existing Centanni deck ovens to prepare homemade Turkish bread with olive-oil dip, a customer favorite at his other locations.
“I want everybody to try everything,” Say said.
The ownership group plans to enclose the exterior porch for use in cooler months, while its outdoor dining environment will support extended hours in the spring and summer.
OBA Mediterranean Grill is also hiring front-of-house staff ahead of a planned opening later this month. The BYO restaurant will operate from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, visit obagrillnj.com (under development).
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