You likely have driven right by Taste of Europe’s inconspicuous Lakewood storefront (15512 Madison Ave., 216-521-9530) and not even noticed it. Located directly across the street from the popular Buckeye Beer Engine, the shop is run by Dafina Bedini, an Albanian proprietor who stocks an amazing variety of specialty European products desired by the wide number of immigrants who call Cleveland’s west side home.
A quick look to the shelves reveals labels written in a variety of languages: Russian, Hungarian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian and Romanian, to name a few. For the shop’s small size, it stocks a dizzying array of shelf-stable foods like teas, candies, coffees and jarred goods, along with a rich variety of imported sausages, pates and cheeses — all cheek-by-jowl in the display cases. Each and every shelf offers dozens of unique surprises, from grape-raisin jam to many uncommon varieties of dried noodles.
In addition to Dafina’s welcoming, friendly manner, what really makes Taste of Europe special are the handmade specialty foods, like beef cevapi, minced meat kebabs common to southeastern Europe ($5.15/lb) and the large, flat pies, which star cheese (feta/ricotta), spinach, meat and cheese, and even apple ($13). Call ahead and Dafina will have them baked and waiting for you.
There’s creamy homemade tiramisu ($2.50/slice) and gorgeous airy, crusty breads baked daily ($1.50), the perfect accompaniment to the rotating daily specials of hearty soups and tempting dinner specials. Just reading over the fixed weekly menu of homemade entrées makes your mouth water (caveat: Monday’s chicken paprikash with dumplings often sells out). Other days feature stuffed cabbage with mashed potatoes, goulash, stuffed peppers, beef stroganoff and weinerschnitzel. Each costs just $5.99 — a bargain for a wonderful homemade meal. Don’t miss Saturdays, when pork cracklings (crispy fried pig skin) are available!
And what better accompaniment for those hearty, homemade snacks and meals than an unusually wide variety of imported European beers and wines?
Taste of Europe is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.