Balkan Dining (687 Kenmore Ave., Tonawanda) is a tiny restaurant that opened in December. A Bosnian family converted a pizzeria into a space with four tables that fill fast on weekends.
Senad and Amela Soteli are offering house-made sausages, bread, salads and desserts, with paprika-powered goulash on weekends. But the most remarkable thing on their brief menu is the pita.
Balkan Dining’s pitas are tender, house-made dough rolled around fillings that include spinach and egg, beef and onion, cheese and egg, mushroom and potato. The stuffed tube is coiled into a snail-like shape and baked, emerging golden brown and puffed. The cost is $4.99, and it’s big enough for two to share for lunch, with a salad.
Elsewhere, and in Turkish culture, the savory pastries are known as burek. “In Bosnia, it’s pita,” said restaurant staffer Edin Asipi.
Pitas take about 25 minutes because each one is made to order – not just the pastry, but the dough, too.
The doughmaking is an art in itself. Before making each pita, Aida Hamzic or another staffer takes a measure of fresh dough to turn into a sort of fresh phyllo. Made of flour, water and salt, the dough is patted out into a pizzalike disc. Then the cook grasps one side and twirls it, using the dough’s own weight to stretch it out. It’s like a pizza dough thrower’s move, except the dough is more fragile and tender.
The move is repeated two, three, four times, as the dough gets thinner and wider. It takes about 15 seconds. “When it’s nice and transparent, and you can see the table under it, it’s time to fill it,” Asipi said.
When the dough is ready, it’s about four feet wide, and practically translucent enough to read through. Filling is scattered across it before it’s rolled up and coiled. After a brushing with oil, it gets tossed into the oven.
Because the pitas take time, and seating is limited, many customers order theirs to go, and pick them up. Unfortunately, the warm pastry steams its outer layers soft. For best results, pick a time when you can get a table at Balkan Dining, and get your pita fresh from the oven.
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