Narda Lepes vindicates the cuisine of immigrants “with a lot of flavor” in her new restaurant

On the staff’s t-shirts and on the glasses it says “Family dining room”. It reflects quite well the dynamics of this new bet: Narda works like Alma mater generous –always present and restless, but without monopolizing–, who entrusted her collaborators, “Lu” (Lucila Rodriguez) and Mario Spinelli, the opening of this iconic corner of La Imprenta. Between all of them they began to identify the pulse of the neighborhood and to design a suitable menu, with great criteria and a lot of heart.

To eat at all hours: the Turkish bread arrives warm together with a mixture of white cheese, honey, walnuts and poppy; the yogurt comes with avocado, cherries, quinoa and olive.DENISE GIOVANELI

In fact, it family is played a lot in the kitchen, because the idea in Lokanta –restaurant, in Turkish– is to rescue the honest recipes from grandparents, with a contemporary twist. “Those pot bottoms, things with a lot of flavor,” explains Narda emphatically. He defines cuisine as “geographical”, although he limits it to “certain places in the world, especially the Mediterranean”. What is Croatian, Turkish, Spanish, Greek, French and Italian in its roots and those of the majority of those who work here translates into noble dishes, with character, that comfort soul and body.

Are they cannelloni of green leaves from Mario’s grandmother; the matambrito and semolina gnocchi from Miriana, Lu’s grandmother, and those classics that we all love: the fritters (with alioli and sriracha), the Niçoise salad, a ossobuco braised with a lot of juice served with risoni (an Italian rice-shaped pasta) and even a Supreme Maryland –a childhood memory of Narda– reformulated with a banana tartare. The daily menu of the showcase is added, with an abundance of grains, fresh herbs, well-seasoned vegetables and a protein of your choice, which can be some meat, fish, egg or halloumi cheese.

The iconic corner of Las Cañitas was recycled and filled with light to house Narda Lepes' new development.
The iconic corner of Las Cañitas was recycled and filled with light to house Narda Lepes’ new development.DENISE GIOVANELI
Grandma's cannelloni, a reversal of an infallible classic.
Grandma’s cannelloni, a reversal of an infallible classic.DENISE GIOVANELI
“I am a long stride.  I like to have breakfast or eat after hours”, confesses the cook.  That is why there are small dishes on the menu that rhyme well with any time of the day.
“I am a long stride. I like to have breakfast or eat after hours”, confesses the cook. That is why there are small dishes on the menu that rhyme well with any time of the day.DENISE GIOVANELI

The same corner – Maure and Migueletes – that used to house a couple of ice cream parlors and, several decades ago, the old Hippodrome printing press, was recycled, extended with a terrace and it was filled with light to the point that at one point of the day the folds of the windows project a rainbow on the white tiles of the wall, where they write the recipes with a marker.

Narda was clear when she conceived the space: “I don’t want anything that’s fashionable”, asked the architects. So it was. The chairs are old style, light blue formica like the ones at school; the tables, wooden and square. The most strident are the products that adorn the shelves: the pickles canned, persimmons and dried peppers that hang, pastries or bags of legumes and vegetables that stand out from the second floor.

Seasonal burrata, roasted pears, radicchio, arugula, honey and pistachios.
Seasonal burrata, roasted pears, radicchio, arugula, honey and pistachios.DENISE GIOVANELI
Lucila Olivera, head chef and responsible for several of her creations, has been working closely with Narda for several years.
Lucila Olivera, head chef and responsible for several of her creations, has been working closely with Narda for several years.DENISE GIOVANELI
A bar delivers crumb sandwiches assembled on the spot.  The potato and egg with tomato is addictive.
A bar delivers crumb sandwiches assembled on the spot. The potato and egg with tomato is addictive.DENISE GIOVANELI

Lokanta It opens from morning to night and the menu is very versatile. “I am a long stride. I like to have breakfast or eat after hours”, confesses the cook. There are little dishes that rhyme well with any moment. One is the turkish bread “from another planet”, flat, covered with sesame. It arrives warm along with a mixture of white cheese, honey, walnuts and poppy seeds. “It’s not for spreading: you have to grab that concoction and put it inside the bread,” he clarifies, making the gesture of stirring.

In that plan of not being tied to a schedule, a bar dispatches crumb sandwiches armed on the spot. Well loaded, there are tuna, lettuce and cucumber, mortadella, cheese and tomato or the very original potato and egg with tomato. It should be noted that the family Lokanta He declares himself a fan of potato salad. They also serve it with peppers and anchovies, and warm with olives and roasted pepper.

A sweet and nostalgic bomb: the Lokanta Cup is made up of a soft meringue and fresh strawberries.  Inside, creamy lemon, white chocolate and cream.
A sweet and nostalgic bomb: the Lokanta Cup is made up of a smooth meringue and fresh strawberries. Inside, creamy lemon, white chocolate and cream.DENISE GIOVANELI

In addition to being a good cook, Narda is playful and enjoys taking people out of their comfort zone. That is why she proposes a yogurt with cherry tomato, avocado, quinoa and olive, instead of the hackneyed granola with honey. Or a “wachines” menu, with a little of each thing and everything separated so that the boys are encouraged to try. This pleasure of experimenting with flavors and textures is a feast to which its diners turn on with joy. Like a boy who embeds a strawberry deep inside the infinite meringue of the Cup Lokanta, the star dessert of the house. Narda detects it and approaches the table. “Well, that’s how you eat”, she congratulates him.

Migueletes 898, Las Cañitas. Monday to Saturday, from 9 to 23; Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. IG: @lokantaimprenta