When Iwona Palussek isn’t hand-crafting Polish and European fare at Tasty Cultures, she likes to dine out at family-owned restaurants around town.
for Iwona Palussek, who owns Tasty Cultures in Cape Coral with her husband, Robert, the kitchen has always been a comfort zone.“I grew up in Poland in a very large family, and we all gathered in the enormous kitchen around the oak table,” Palussek says. “My grandfather would be chopping mushrooms to dry in the winter, my great grandmother would be there. My memories from childhood are always related to food.”
In her family’s kitchen, Palussek learned how to create the scratch-made items featured on her menu, dishes such as pierogi, potato pancakes and stuffed cabbage rolls.
“Still today I call my grandmother that is over 90 years old, and I ask her to give me recipes,” Palussek says.
JLB review: Odd name, serious Polish food at Tasty Cultures
When she’s not up at 5 a.m. to visit the farm where she buys her organic produce or bake one of her famous Austrian-cream rolls, Palussek likes to eat out around town at family-owned restaurants.
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Golobki and schnitzel, goulash and pierogi. The menu at Tasty Cultures in Cape Coral is a mix of Polish, Hungarian, German and Austrian foods, a reflection of owners Robert and Iwona Palussek’s German and Polish heritage.
The new restaurant opened Nov. 4 and, according to Robert, has received great community support. “It’s always been Iwona’s dream,” Robert said. The idea for the restaurant grew as friends and family raved about Iwona’s food.
Tasty Cultures’ menu includes house-made Scandinavian gravlax, Bavarian roasted duck, and bigos, a Polish dish of slowly braised short ribs with sauerkraut and porcini and cremini mushrooms. Liverwurst sandwiches, panini and homemade soups are on the lunch menu, along with sides such as German potato salad and red cabbage with bacon.
Iwona is sourcing from local markets and farms. Daily specials are designed around what’s local and in-season, with takeout also available. For customers in a rush, a steam table holds ready-to-go, from-scratch items, and Iwona hopes to add meal delivery service in the future.
“Great tasting food doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive,” Robert said, “we look forward to building a wide audience.”
The restaurant seats 86 and offers beer and wine. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Visit Tasty Cultures at 4518 Del Prado Blvd. S., Cape Coral. For more information, call 540-6300 or visit facebook.com/tastycultures.
At Tasty Cultures in Cape Coral, an odd name is covering up some seriously soulful Polish and Eastern European cuisine.
It sounds like an international yogurt shop, or a specialty food boutique selling kombucha and sourdough starters from around the world. Cape Coral’s Tasty Cultures sounds like a lot of things. Soulful Polish-German-Hungarian restaurant isn’t one of them. And yet here you are with a plate of pierogi speckled with sweetly caramelized onions and lardons of house-cured bacon (whaaat?!). The pillowy dumplings cut like velvet, their rich potato-cheese filling smudging the plate. It’s a far cry from yak yoghurt and fermented tea — and for that we should all be grateful. Tasty Cultures opened in November in the former Belvedere Bistro space in a Del Prado strip mall across from Siam Hut. Belvedere Bistro was also Polish, in a kooky, haphazard way that involved light-up plastic Santas and some funky sort of stage. Robert and Iwona Palussek, Tasty Cultures’ owners, have made a more honest restaurant of the space. They’ve brightened it and opened it up for better flow. A cafeteria-style counter lines the back right half of the dining room, for quick takeout orders at lunch. A beer-and-wine bar lines the back left half, for icy bottles of Grolschand Zywiec, or generous pours of interesting reds and whites that are as likely to be from Lebanon as they are Napa Valley.
The Palusseks have good taste. He hails from Germany, she from Poland. They got the idea to open a restaurant when friend after friend raved about Iwona’s cooking. They wanted to create a place that was like their home, with a kitchen that sourced locally and organically, as Iwona did, and a menu that featured the foods the couple grew up eating.
That means thinly pounded schnitzels fried to a greaseless crunch, and Hungarian-style goulash spiced with paprika and caraway then served with potato pancakes all thick and crisp. Specials could include chicken paprikash over egg noodles, or eggplant rollatini packed with five cheeses and spinach in Iwona’s own marinara. These are all wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the Polish dishes where Iwona most shines.
Her buttery pierogi, which can also be filled with sauerkraut and mushrooms, are a must. As are her meat-and-rice-stuffed golabki and her stick-to-your-ribs bigos, a Polish stew packed with braised short ribs, more mushrooms and more sauerkraut. She serves it over mashed potatoes, for an extra-extra layer of comfort. Iwona roasts a half duck till the skin is shellacked and crisp, the meat melting. She pairs it with potato dumplings and braised red cabbage with a bright tang. There was some confusion about that cabbage one night when an extra side of it went missing. And there was more confusion about an order of potato pancakes the waitress thought we wanted as an appetizer when really we wanted it as an entrée with the goulash. Entrees quickly followed and the mistake was corrected, though we were left with an overflowing table of food (not that anyone paces meals anymore). Were this a $25-per-entrée place I’d be bothered. But it’s a $14.99 and sometimes a $10.99-per-entrée place. At lunch it’s a $6-per-entree place that’s as filling as it is fresh.
One lunch we had golabki and pierogi and goulash and potato pancakes and Iwona’s ridiculously good Bavarian cream roll (layered with her ridiculously good lemon curd, whipped cream and fresh raspberries (seriously, go get a slice NOW)) for $30. We feasted for the price of a fancy steakhouse steak. That’s what makes Tasty Cultures truly special. No, it’s not a yogurt place. Yes, it has a funny name. But the moment you take a bite none of that matters. You just know you want more. SUBSCRIBE: Jean Le Boeuf’s weekly newsletter Jean Le Boeuf is the pseudonym used by a local food lover who dines at restaurants anonymously and without warning, with meals paid for by The News-Press. Follow the critic at facebook.com/jeanleboeufswfl or @JeanLeBoeuf on Twitter and Instagram TASTY CULTURES 4518 Del Prado Blvd., Cape Coral •Food: ★★★½ •Atmosphere: ★★★☆ •Service: ★★☆☆ •Price: $$-$$$ •Call: 540-6300 •Web: tastycultures.com or facebook.com/tastycultures •Hours: 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday •Noise level: Low to moderate •Etc.: Beer and wine served, takeout and catering available Sample menu Starters • Pierogi sampler, $6.95 • House-made gravlax, $8.95 • Cream of mushroom soup, $3.50
Entrees • Golabki, $13.95 • Beef stroganoff, $18.95 • Lamb osso bucco, $18.95 What the symbols mean ★ – Poor★★ – Fair ★★★ – Good ★★★★ – Excellent $ – Average dinner entree is under $10