Living in New York City, we are spoiled to have almost every ethnic cuisine on earth represented in this great, big metropolis. Chris and I are also just inherently curious about cultures other than our own, and especially their food, as food is the easiest gateway into learning about another’s culture. While there are certainly many cuisines we have yet to really try, one that we finally tried today was Albanian. And funnily enough, it was in Belmont right off of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. As I was reading about the restaurant we visited (called Cka Ka Qellu, named after a proverb meaning “what we happen to have”), I found out something funny that I hadn’t even though about before: over 20 years ago, a number of ethnic Albanian refugees fled a genocidal conflict in Kosovo, and a lot of them ended up in New York City working in pizza parlors all over town. This explains why a number of the city’s pizza parlors had other side items like cheese and spinach bureks on their menus; it was the Albanians’ way of introducing a taste of their home to New Yorkers who were originally coming in for a slice of pizza.
We had our main Saturday meal at Cka Ka Qellu and had an assortment of delicious dishes, from tarator, like the Albanian version of tzatziki; fasul, a rich white bean soup; and mantia, which are veal meatballs with a choice of being served in a thick, white yogurt sauce (which we, of course, asked for). This quaint, farmhouse-like restaurant even had a pizza oven up front, baking all their fresh breads from scratch. The bread here was soft, pillowy, and incredibly delicious!
Most people wouldn’t guess we’d trek up to Arthur Avenue for Albanian food, but on this trip, we did. We did make sure to pick up some Italian staples, though, like dried pasta, canned San Marzano tomatoes, Italian pork sausage, and fresh mozzarella.
There are so many delicious things to eat in the world, yet so little time. If only we could try something different and new every day!