What comes first, the name or the restaurant?
Earlier this month, an unnamed cafe opened in East Cambridge in the space once occupied by Cafe Kiraz, a popular neighborhood spot that shuttered last spring. Following Twitter leads, Metro decided to drop by one afternoon about a week later to see if they had decided what to call themselves.
Turns out, they hadn't. The awning above the storefront was still blank, the only signage an easel chalkboard with menu items standing near the door.
Inside, owner Katerina Danilova huddled with friends and family, trying to narrow down name options. Danilova wanted to make a decision in half an hour, by 6 p.m.
“[Our customers] say, 'What are you guys called? When are you guys going to have a name?” Danilova says. “We told them by [today] we'll come up with a name.”
Danilova says opening the cafe was a nine-month process, and that their soft open was on June 1. So why the hold on the name, if they've been open for almost three weeks and were preparing to open for about 36?
“It's very hard to come up with the right name,” Danilova says. “I thought, it's better to have no name than a bad name.”
Danilova's friends debated possible titles over slices of the cafe's mozzarella pizza and glasses of mint lemonade. Corner, Taste and Katya's seemed to be in the lead (the latter a diminutive form of the owner's name).
“Corner is not bad,” says Igor Staribinets, a friend who lives in Newton. “Maybe it should be 'Corner something,' maybe just one word is not enough, they won't understand what this is.”
“The heart of this cafe and this idea is Katya, — I've known her for a long time — so I think it should be called Katya's,” Says Andras Szenes, an old friend who met Katya in Cambridge but moved to Europe 16 years ago. “She feels uneasy about having her name up there”
The cooks prepared more pizzas behind the counter: Peter Danilov, Katerina's son, and Jose Varon, a new hire.
“People always ask me, 'What's the name? What's the name gonna be?' I kind of say, I don't know, I'm here for the cooking, here for the food,” says Varon. “I'd even be OK with a cafe no-name … I think whatever we call it the food will speak for itself.”
While Danilova says they're still finalizing the menu, the day we came by we tried caprese tartines, buffalo mozzarella pizza, chicken salad cups and frozen yogurt. Cafe staples — tea, coffee and cake — are all here, too.
As for the name? Corner certainly seemed to have momentum, but 6 p.m. came and went and only one thing had been decided: the cafe's sub-title would be “Urban Cafe”.
“Maybe it'll be like choosing the pope,” says Danilova. “When we decide, we'll let white smoke out of the chimney.”
Visit the restaurant without a name at 119 Hampshire St., Cambridge.