When Mamlakat (Maya) Tdajieva and her two children, Komola and Farrukh, opened Afsona Restaurant in December, they were pleasantly surprised at how many diners were familiar with the cooking of Uzbekistan. Many of their customers were European tourists, and the locals who tried the restaurant for the first time were enthusiastic.
The family were no strangers to this area, as both Maya and Farrukh worked for years in the kitchen at Alexander’s. “Uzbekistan cuisine is extremely diverse,” says Komola. “We have influences from Europe, Asia, and Russia. Our goal is to introduce our traditions to people and share a different perspective on our food and culture.”
According to Maya, healthy preparations are the hallmark of Uzbekistan cuisine. “All of our ingredients are fresh,” she says. “We rarely buy anything frozen, and most dishes are steamed rather than fried. Everything is homemade, and we don’t hold anything over. When we sell out for the day, that’s it.”
The national dish of Uzbekistan is palov, steamed rice served with beef, carrots, onions, chickpeas, and raisins. Other signature dishes on the Afsona menu include somsa (steamed turnovers stuffed with spinach, beef, or squash), lagman (homemade noodles with meat, vegetables, and fresh herbs), and kebabs made with beef, chicken, shrimp, lamb, or vegetables. First-time visitors are encouraged to try one of the sampler platters to get a sense of what to order on return visits. Uzbekistan borders Russia, and its influence is felt in their version of borscht as well as stuffed cabbage and an assortment of dumplings.
Half of Afsona’s 72 seats are arranged on a patio shielded by umbrellas, and social distancing is observed indoors. “We’re excited to present our heritage to Naples,” says Maya, “and we’re grateful for the response we’ve received so far.”