By Ernest Barteldes
The last time we visited Poland back in 2014 we stopped by a restaurant in Chelm called Kozak – it was a small group consisted of Renata, her brother, his girlfriend and me. We had just stopped by for drinks, but I noticed that the place specialized in pizza. We were not hungry then, but I made a mental note to stop by before the visit was over.
As things turned out, we didn’t have a chance to return to Kozak that week, so I planned to finally try Polish pizza on our next visit (which is happening as I write this piece). I wondered how different the experience would be compared to places like New York, Sao Paulo or other places where I had the chance to sample their take on the Neapolitan treat.
Not all the trials have been great – I remember that when we were in Hawaii, I ordered a slice at this place on the main tourist zone, and was not happy with it – the crust was way too dry and the cheese (whatever that was) just didn’t feel right. As much as I love the Aloha state, I was glad to bite into a New York slice the day we returned from our vacation.
So on the third day of our visit to Chelm, we set over to Kozak, and as we perused the menu we noticed some Italian-style mainstays alongside some creative ideas that included a “tropical” flavor (comparable to America’s “Hawaiian”) that included pineapple, ham, cheese and sauce and also “Four Seasons,” topped with salami, ham and mushrooms.
When I looked at the menu, I noticed a “very spicy” choice called “Alla Twardziel” made with bacon, jalapeno peppers and very little cheese. Since we could order half and half, Renata went with “Alla Campagnola,” which had chicken, mushrooms and pickled Italian peppers. The first thing we noticed was how little cheese it had – it was mostly veggie and meat. On the side, the waiter brought some tomato sauce in case we wanted more (we didn’t). The crust was very thin and the experience was very satisfying. The wine, however, was served in glasses with a very small pour – a little more than they do at tastings – which is weird, since vodka goes for the same price (4 zloty) and the shot is quite big.
The next day we took a day trip to Lublin, a larger city about an hour away. We visited the local old town, and when it came the time to eat we looked around and found a hole in the wall that also served pizza – it was not our original choice, but it was the only one we could settle on for the moment. We ordered a simple chicken pie, and it turned out to be surprisingly good. It was cheesier than the one at Kozak, but the crust was also thin and crispy – just as we liked.
I am not sure if we will experience pizza in Poland again – there’s just over a week left in our trip, and we might go for something different in the future – but if someone invites you for pizza in Poland – at least in the area we are in now – go for it.