WOOD DALE – When Betty Pierscionowski noticed a scarcity of Polish cuisine in the area near Wood Dale, she decided to open her own restaurant in 2007 with U Gazdy.
"I felt like there was nothing around here with regard to represent Polish food, one, and, two, I thought that Polish food was underrepresented. A lot of it was just the standard things that you hear – pierogi, stuffed cabbage, Polish sausage – and there's a limit on what Polish people ate, and that's it," Pierscionowski said.
But that notion of Poland offering a very limited diet is mistaken.
U Gazdy, 270 W. Irving Park Road, offers a wealth of variety in the authentic Polish dishes it serves: pork shank, rabbit, duck, trout, sheep cheese and lamb chops, just to name a few.
"U gazda" is Polish for "at main boss," referring to the head of a family farm, and the restaurant presents a Polish highlander style, reminiscent of the southern region of Poland, which is in the foothills of the Tatra range of the Carpathian mountains.
Front Manager Milan Wrobel started working at U Gazdy in 2008 as a server and bartender. He said he and Pierscionowski have developed new ideas over the years for what to bring to the restaurant to please customers.
Pierscionowski said the restaurant has served some of the same staples such as pork shank and lamb chops since the restaurant opened, though they also have added or changed items over time. She said it takes a long time to show people Polish food has diversity, and Polish cuisine does use more seasonings than just salt and pepper.
"And it takes a lot of work to convince people to try something new," Pierscionowski said.
However, she has noticed the more frequent clients are branching out and trying new things.
Recently, U Gazdy added a Polish-style shish kabob dish, a new type of sheep cheese and zucchini potato pancakes to the menu. Zucchini potato pancakes are popular in Poland especially on Fridays during Lent to avoid eating meat, Wrobel said.
Other items on the menu include smoked salmon stuffed with cheese, sauerkraut stew, salads and chicken pinwheels, which is a dish that features chicken stuffed with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes glazed with a spinach sauce.
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Wrobel added he enjoys establishing relationships with patrons, and the restaurant's small interior adds to its familial feel.
"We are like [a] big family," Wrobel said about the relationship between the restaurant staff and diners. "It's not just like a business approach where we have to make a profit."
U Gazdy has seating for about 60 people inside, along with an outside patio. Pierscionowski hopes to expand work with charities, have more live music from Polish highlander bands and add a night with activities geared toward children.
If you go
WHAT: U Gazdy
WHERE: 270 W. Irving Park Road, Wood Dale
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
INFO: u-gazdy.com, 630-694-5840, firstname.lastname@example.org