About This Project
We're Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, a couple of Pittsburghers who've been running a pop-up restaurant and community event called Pierogi Night for over four years around the city's East End. We're excited to rally the endless support that we've gotten for our ongoing pop-up and create our new project: Apteka.
Apteka will be a restaurant and bar that serves from-scratch, affordable food in a relaxed and cozy atmosphere. For this project, we're returning to the food and locations that inspired us in the first place: Eastern and Central European cuisine - food that is close to the heart of the city. Apteka's menu will be completely plant based, highlighting the vegetables, fruits, and grains that really illuminate this region's cuisine.
We found a space, and, with your help, we plan to build it out into a great new restaurant.
Where We Started: PIEROGI NIGHT
Pierogi Night started as a small event in the back of a Lawrenceville bar with a few trays of pierogi. With tremendous support from everyone who showed up every month and spread the word, the event grew and grew, and continued moving locations to Garfield and Bloomfield in pursuit of a space that could house our crowd and kitchen needs, finally bringing us to a community center in the heart of Lawrenceville.
In an early attempt to make fewer pierogi, we tried to fill people up with different guest foods, regional dishes, often favorite street foods from around the world from pad thai to knish, banh mi to falafel. We researched and experimented with these dishes to find a way that's true to their original design but innovated with different ingredients and techniques to create new and interesting food. But, instead of getting us off the hook with making more pierogi, the event just got more popular. At every Pierogi Night a dozen people would immediately ask when the next one was scheduled, so we kept doing it. And, that question soon became, "When are you opening a restaurant?"
Four years later, Pierogi Night is still only 3 hours long and about once a month, but we've grown from 30 people to over 300. We've gotten a lot of love, and we really look forward to putting on the event, but we think it’s time to grow even more.
Where We're Going: APTEKA
In the spirit of our pop-up, Apteka aims to go back to the start and examine and innovate upon the food that inspired us from the beginning. Our idea is to create this eatery- modern, affordable, informal - that gets at the essence of the cuisine and culture of Central and Eastern Europe. Aside from pierogi, we'll be focusing on all of the grains, mushrooms, fruit & roots, dense breads, preserved and smoked foods that make up the heart of the cuisine. The menu is going to be centered on vegetables, and all of the dishes will be vegan.
Apteka is the Polish word for pharmacy, and is a similar word in a number of Central and Eastern European languages. In the United States, you know that you're in an Eastern European neighborhood because you start seeing aptekas. In a similar way, we plan to be a marker for Eastern European food in Pittsburgh.
We've been working on this idea for years, and we’re proud to announce that we’ve finally found a space and signed a lease!
The space is along Penn Avenue between Lawrenceville and Bloomfield and has a lot of potential - big front windows, a covered carport and backyard for outdoor seating - we think we can really fit into the space. But, it's a huge project. To make it work we're doing a big buildout:
- Construction of the bar, bathrooms, & kitchen
- Installing the plumbing for the space
- A full electrical job & HVAC work
- Building out the space for a restaurant.
But, when it's all said and done, it's going to be something really special.
We do, however, need help to make this happen. We wouldn’t have gotten to this point without the tremendous support we’ve received from everyone attending Pierogi Nights over the years. We’re asking, once again, for your support to help make Apteka a reality!
And, Who We Are
We started Pierogi Night over four years ago as a creative project to complement our years of experience in the service industry and to pay respects to one of the city's favorite foods. We both stayed in Pittsburgh for school - Kate at Pitt and Tomasz at CMU - and, like most of our peers, we held jobs in the service industry from high school onward:, cooking, serving, bartending, and baking - and we're still at it. With Pierogi Night, we've gotten endless support that has been catalytic in us moving forward on the restaurant. We've spent the past few years planning: cooking though menus, compiling design, finding and planning out a space.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, we both experienced Pittsburgh's identity rooted in its Eastern European heritage - the food, the churches, the festivals, the names, and the families. However, while Kate was eating Fritos and polka dancing with her grandma's friends at the Croatian Center during the summer, every year Tomasz was with his family back in Poland. His experience of the food of Poland and the surrounding countries was a lot different than the staples we love in Pittsburgh. He and his family picked wild mushrooms, gathered berries, and stopped by their city garden plot daily to pick or dig up fruits and roots to add to the next meal. These experiences inform the food and culture we plan to create in Apteka. We like informal and hearty food; we like casual and interesting spaces. We are also both vegan, but the majority of people who we love, who support our pop-ups and who help put it on, are not. So we're excited to cook good food without any excuses, food for meat eaters and non-meat-eaters alike.
Our t-shirt design by Christina Lee (color TBD):
HUGE Thanks to our Awesome Team:
Peter Leeman on Video
Patrick Sweeney as Legal Guru
Cameron Scott on Website
Ben Filio on Photography
Eileen Angulo on Event Planning
Christina Lee on Design
Kellen Fenaughty on Space Design
Jack Lasky on Architecture
Pittsburgh Magazine via Brazen Kitchen: "Donate Now: 6 Worthy Pittsburgh Food Startups"
If you speak Czech: Hospodárské Noviny
Risks and challenges
Opening a restaurant is a whole lot more than cooking for a lot of people. There are a number of challenges that we have worked through over the past few years of putting this project together in order to set ourselves up for success. We've built a team of architects, contractors, designers, and consultants, who are all helping us transition our pop-up project into its permanent home. Over the years we've sat in the passenger seat of restaurants and cafes trying to get up and running. We are completely aware of the obstacles and hazards ahead and have prepared ourselves with Plan B's through Plan Z's. But where no amount of planning can help, we've built a team of seasoned support to keep this project strong.
For everything from the change of use of the building to cooking the first meals out of the space, we have help and support to make this project a success!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)