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More than a mouthful

Slovakia Restaurant celebrates one year on the squarel

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Growing up, "Czechoslovakia" stumped many a spelling bee wiz. The trick was to break the word into its separate syllabic entities -- much like they were prior to communist rule. Now the separate countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia exist once again.

That said, when I thought of the food originating from that Eastern Bloc region, I imagined gruel or goulash. Slovakia Restaurant on the square in Marietta goes a long way in clearing up such misconceptions. Touted as the first Slovakian fine dining establishment in Georgia, the mom-and-pop eatery owned by Stefan and Ivana Bencik celebrates its one-year anniversary at the end of March.

Located in the former Jimmy the Greek's location, the restaurant is a warm, wood- paneled spot that for years has been a meeting place for the movers and shakers of the area. A picture of former state Rep. Joe Mack Wilson still hangs on the wall, a reminder of the history of the room.

The cuisine also tells a story. Dishes like wiener schnitzel and Polish pirogues -- thought of as Austrian to some -- fill the voluminous menu. Vegetarians beware: The region is known for its fish and meat dishes. It'll take awhile to decide among a two-page list of freshwater fish selections, then a page of seafood, a page of beef, a page of pork, a page of chicken, then a page of house specialties.

Chef Stefan recommends the Slovakian Grand Mama's Sauerkraut Soup ($5.95) -- and for good reason. The hearty bowl is heaped with sauerkraut, chunks of smoked pork and plenty of paprika, turning the whole thing a bright orange. The soup is a meal in itself -- but don't stop there.

The pirogues ($6.95) were served as a flaky pastry shell instead of the more traditional bread dumpling. One was stuffed with spinach, the other with mushrooms and veal; both came in a pool of rich, creamy hollandaise sauce. Those watching their cholesterol also might want to stay away from the spaetzle ($6.95): tiny dumplings served in a cheese sauce with thick rations of bacon cut into squares.

And those are just the appetizers.

For the main course, we went for the wiener schnitzel. The two large slices of battered and fried pork are served with a heap of potato salad and garnished with fresh fruit. We enjoyed slicing and sharing the large portions, but the $16.95 price tag seems a bit steep. I'd prefer a reduction in size and cost.

The same goes for the raznici ($18.95). The two skewers of chicken and pork were abundant with meat, vegetables and spices, but it seemed a steep choice. In fact, it's hard to find a main entree at Slovakia under $15. Many hit $20, even $30. Fortunately, the portions are so large you can split an entree between two. But if you're looking for variety, you could end up ringing up quite a bill. Then there are the tempting liqueurs and the Czech beer (Pilsner Urquell on tap).

Despite the cost, we went all out and ordered the $10.95 palancik dessert: warm, fruit-filled pancakes with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and fruit preserves. We swore we couldn't tackle the huge thing, but somehow we cleaned the plate in no time.

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