I’m not sure anything made my Polish father happier than the day I brought home a Polish girlfriend for the first time. Before he even asked about her name, her family or, you know, important stuff, he wanted to know if she could make pierogi. Recently I had the assignment of trying the Pierogi at Cafe Polonia in Southie for an article for Boston Magazine, naturally I had to take Katie and my father with me. My memories of food from my childhood are somewhat fuzzy, aside from my grandmother’s spongecake, I vaguely recall the occasional Pierogi and Blintz but little else. But it all comes back to our roots, it’s in our blood, and I’ll be damned if I don’t love a good Pierogi, Kielbasa or big bowl of Borscht. I honestly had little expectations of Cafe Polonia, generally speaking I’m pretty particular as to what I find good and what is less than stellar, but I knew that if the Pierogi was anything but excellent, the other two Poles in the room would not be happy.
Even though the Pierogi is what ended up being spotlighted in the Boston Magazine article, we couldn’t help but order a ridiculous amount of food and sample as much as we could. After trying two different versions of Borscht (one traditional, one Ukrainian) in addition to a round of Pierogi, we split an order of The Polish Plate; a dizzying array of very hearty fare, which included even more Pierogi, Bigos, Kielbasa and Golabki. The Polish Borscht had a deep beet flavor, a thin soup accented with mushroom-stuffed dumplings. The thicker and more balanced Ukrainian version (a special that day) was divine; more subtle on the beet, but overall loaded with potato and undeniably delicious. Even though everything was spectacular, it wasn’t all about the food. It was the feeling of being right at home, swapping stories of the food Katie and I each grew up with, and hearing tales of my father recount his early years in Poland. Cafe Polonia is a must try, you definitely don’t have to be Polish to enjoy it, although it certainly does’t hurt.