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Global Flavors That Satisfy Even the Youngest Appetites

Vespa’s Chef Seref Akbay shares a love for all cuisines with his young sons

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At 1 year old, Berfo Akbay doesn’t yet know what he’s missing.

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The Akbay family enjoys a meal at Vespa.

Though he can eat fried rice, he has a few more months until he can really enjoy his parents’ cooking. His older brothers, Ronay, 10, and Deniz, 8, grew up enjoying the occasional meal at Vespa, the Italian and Mediterranean restaurant their dad Seref has worked at for the last decade. When Seref became the sole owner in 2012, he tweaked the menu and added influences from his native Turkey.

The Akbay family – Deniz, Shu, Seref, Berfo and Ronay – at Vespa.
The Akbay family – Deniz, Shu, Seref, Berfo and Ronay.

When wife Shu Akbay brings the boys by to eat dinner after school at Carrboro Elementary, they happily greet their dad and take a seat at the bar or outside. Calamari, penne with smoked salmon and tilapia are just a few of Ronay and Deniz’s favorites. They’ve even been eager to get behind the stove and help cook “easy stuff like mashed potatoes,” according to Ronay.

On the nights they don’t stop by Vespa, it’s Shu’s turn to take the lead in the kitchen. Hailing from Burma, she gravitates to flavorful Thai or Asian meals. She feeds her family dishes like green curry or yellow noodles with coconut milk curry, a favorite dish of Seref’s eaten on nights off at home.

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Deniz Akbay poses with the restaurant’s namesake.

PENNE AL FUMO

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1⁄2 Tbsp. garlic
1⁄2 Tbsp. shallot
2 Tbsp. fresh diced tomato
2 Tbsp. smoked salmon, cubed
1 Tbsp. herb butter
A few fresh basil leaves
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup marinara sauce
4 oz. cooked penne pasta
1⁄2 Tbsp. green peas
Fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan

In a sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot, tomato, salmon, butter and basil. Saute for about a minute and add cream. Cook about 5 minutes on low heat. Add marinara sauce, continue to cook and stir for about 5 minutes until sauce begins to thicken and reduce liquid. Add penne pasta and green peas. Saute around 1 minute and serve. Garnish with fresh parsley and grated Parmesan.

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Photography by Briana Brough

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Jessica is the Executive Editor for Chapel Hill Magazine. As a 2010 grad of UNC, she's happy to be back in town writing, editing and eating around the Triangle.