A new business, opened by two siblings with Croatian and Ukrainian roots, is bringing European homestyle cooking to the community.
Julia and Victor Polowy are 21-year-old twins who recently opened a food truck business called Schnitzels and Strudels North.
Their menu, featuring a variety of schnitzel sandwiches, sausage on a bun, special plates, sides and dessert, was inspired by their late baba or grandmother.
Once they got an opportunity to buy a food truck to sell that kind of food, it was a no-brainer, Victor said.
Their parents, who help them run the business, also used to own a food truck selling burgers and fries in downtown Toronto when they were in their late 20s, Victor said.
The siblings learned how to cook from a young age from their mother and their baba. Strudels and cabbage rolls were “big staples” in their childhood.
“When I was really young, I didn’t appreciate the food as much. But then I became older, I can’t stay away from cabbage rolls. I’ll eat five or six cabbage rolls and go back for seconds,” Victor said.
“You take it for granted when you’re a kid,” Julia added. “We always went to baba’s house and we had Croatian food, and I didn’t realize not everyone has that until I went away to school.”
Running a food truck, using their baba’s recipes, is like a tribute to their baba who died in May. Baba taught them to be proud of their culture and heritage, and wear it on their sleeve, Victor said.
“She was a very proud Croatian. Every time we went to baba’s house, we weren’t eating anything but the best food and it was always traditional Croatian dishes, that were homemade with care,” he said.
Throughout the week, while the food truck is closed, the Polowys do meal preparation.
Most of the food is homemade. Schnitzels are hand-pounded and hand-breaded, cabbage rolls and sides are homemade, strudels are hand-rolled and apples are peeled and cut by the siblings.
The twins were familiar with cooking before, while everything else that came with running a business, such as designing the menu, taking care of finances, doing landscaping and promotion, was a new experience to them.
“You learn to appreciate the connections and everybody is so helpful and wants to help. It’s been really great, even with local suppliers. We’ve worked with the community and it’s been good,” Julia said.
Since the business's opening, the Polowys have tweaked their menu and hours because they weren’t sure of what the demand would be. But since the first day of their opening, the response and support from the community have been incredible, they said.
“We’re very fortunate and grateful for everybody that came and supported us,” Victor said. “You can never complain about too much business, so we’re very happy to have everyone and we just want to feed everyone and do the best we can to put out the best product.”
The food truck has a decal that showcases a man and a woman, representing Julia and Victor, who are wearing traditional Croatian clothing and holding plates of strudels and schnitzels. The design of the house in the decal’s background was based on the house their grandfather grew up in. In the front, the vineyards are where their relatives used to make wine in Croatia.
With little fairy doors and keys hidden on the trees throughout the patio area, Julia said she was striving for a storybook kind of atmosphere and she wanted to create something similar to the Black Forest in Germany. The wine barrels on the patio belonged to their grandfather who used to make wine.
“Everything here has a little bit of story behind it,” Victor said.
In Europe, where Julia lived for two years, a meal is like an event and there’s no rush to leave as people share a meal with their friends and family, she said.
“We’re a food truck and you get your food fast but we wanted to create a spot and experience,” she said. “When they come, they can get that European experience where you sit down with your family and enjoy food.”
It will be a seasonal business as Julia is leaving to skate in Germany while taking online courses in October, and Victor is heading to study neuroscience at the University of Toronto in the fall.
The Polowys encourage community members to come out and try something new.
“We’re going to continue to try and serve people better. If we need to make adjustments here or there, we will,” Victor said.
The food truck is located at 730 Falcon St. The hours of operation are Friday to Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Special plates are served from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com