In the Pocket

In the Pocket

“Pierogi: a small dough dumpling stuffed with a filling such as potato or cheese, typically served as a dish with onions or sour cream.” So says the Oxford Dictionary.

The Wolfski’s definition goes more like this: a small dough dumpling filled with roasted chicken, buffalo sauce and crumbled blue cheese in celery seed-infused dough. Or a dumpling made of vegan dough filled with mashed sweet potato, chopped kale and caramelized onion. The Wolfski’s team—co-creators Paul and Jess Wolfer and co-owner Chris Jamilkowski, with help from Tim Jamilkowski—say they haven’t come up with a combination they don’t like.

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The story of their fledgling company, which operates every Tuesday night out of rented kitchen space in North Haven, begins not with the filling, however, but with the dough. Husband and wife team Paul and Jess thought it would be fun to rescue the pierogi dough recipe of Paul’s Polish grandmother (his babci) and make some of the dumplings for his mom one Christmas. Turns out, making good dough was trickier than following a recipe. It has to be not-too-sticky and not-too-dry, and even the weather can affect it. “The first time was a little bit of a misfire,” Jess says.

Their second attempt, about a year later for a party, was slightly more successful. This time, inspired by spring rolls with unusual fillings they’d ordered at a local restaurant, they stuffed the pierogies with buffalo chicken, pulled pork and steak and cheese. Friend Chris Jamilkowski, a professional chef, was there, and he told them he thought he could help them perfect what they’d started. Together, they made a Thanksgiving dinner pierogi stuffed with turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes and served with gravy. They made sweet potato pierogies, too. Soon their friends were asking for more, and in May of 2015 the Wolfers and Jamilkowski made the leap and opened for business.

Three years and many food festivals later, they’re awaiting delivery of a trailer that will help them take their food on the road more efficiently. They crank out as many as 700 pierogies in an evening. Everything is packaged and frozen, and customers can place orders online for Tuesday evening pickup. “Just put them right in some oil in a pan and heat them from frozen,” Chris says. “You won’t even know that they were frozen. They’re just crispy and tender.”

The Wolfski’s team gives me a peek at their operation one Tuesday evening. A big batch of dough is waiting on a counter to be sliced and run through the pasta maker. Tim Jamilkowski cuts circular pieces from a band of dough, and Paul uses a miniature scoop to center the buffalo chicken filling and pinch it shut. Chris pan-fries some pierogies on the stove for us to try.

There are traditional potato and cheese pierogies sautéed with onions, a perfect dish for purists. But there’s also a bacon cheeseburger golabki (pronounced “gwumpkie”), or stuffed cabbage roll, a little bit crunchy on the outside with a savory, meatloafy filling. The kielbasa hash is a delicious breakfast-for-dinner sauté of potatoes, red pepper, onions and kielbasa with a sous-vide egg on top. Wolfski’s buys all of its kielbasa from longtime kielbasa makers V. Czapiga & Son in Meriden.

Customers will often start with “something that is comfortable for them, but then they’ll come back and try something that’s maybe a little more uncomfortable,” Jess says. “We gain their trust. When they come back, then they’ll experiment a little bit.”

Wolfski’s is all about experimentation. The menu is “barely Babci-approved,” Paul quips. Along with potato and cheese and another favorite, kielbasa and sauerkraut, flavors for order online include farmer’s cheese; steak and cheese; vegan sweet potato, kale and onion; pulled pork; bacon cheeseburger; and corned beef reuben. Then there’s the buffalo chicken. I take some home frozen to fry up later, when I’m wowed by the first bite.

Sometimes people look down on Polish food as “bland,” Paul says, but that’s because in 20th-century wartime and postwar Poland, food was for survival. “It wasn’t until the ’80s and early ’90s food started to become something extra for them,” says Chris, who researched Polish food in the process of creating the Wolfski’s menu. “They used the ingredients that they had on hand.” Would-be customers sometimes criticize Wolfski’s for messing with tradition, but Chris points out that now “we’re using the ingredients that we have on hand, and we’re making it our own.”

“This is a melting pot,” Paul agrees. “We’re not all Polish. We’re a mix of a lot of different influences, so we’re… actually proud of that.” If you can’t pronounce golabki, no worries. The food is “Pol-‘ish,’” as the website says, and everyone in the melting pot is invited to the table.

420 Sackett Point Rd, North Haven (map)
Order pickups: Tues 7-11pm
(203) 530-4949

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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