Tag Archives: Menhanata

An old world organic kitchen

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Bradley Hawks


Alexander Dimitrov, the chef-owner of Trakia, which recently opened in Astoria, is hoping guests will come for the organic pizza, but then return for one of his authentic Mediterranean dishes roasted in the brick oven — or for the pizza again. There is a whole lot going on in this new kitchen, and Dimitrov is no newcomer to the industry. He is the owner of Mehanata on the Lower East Side.

While Trakia has no aspirations of becoming a Bulgarian nightclub and vodka-tasting den, it does plan to showcase a laid-back, brick oven approach to cooking far more than just pizza.

The intention for Trakia is simply to bring organic, authentic, casual Mediterranean cooking to 30th Avenue, in a relaxed setting with a somewhat eccentric atmosphere. The décor features much of Dimitrov’s own woodwork, as well as a hand-sculpted aquarium built into the wall, which showcases a mosaic of tchotchkes, running from a miniature Tinker Bell figurine to a manger scene with Mary and Joseph. Three wise monkeys sit perched at the top.

The real object of our affection is the extensive range of menu items. Marijan Begani heads up the pizza station, where pies are topped with everything from homemade pockets of chicken ravioli, to a dessert pie smeared with Nutella and topped with grapes and a blend of berries.

Though Dimitrov is Bulgarian, the restaurant name is a reference to a United Europe, as the menu reflects. Stoneware dishes are used to bake shopski salads — like a Greek salad topped with creamy feta and a whole egg. Lahmacun and pides come steaming from the oven — pastry boats filled with a variety of ground meats, including traditional ground lamb. Whole eggplants and butternut squashes are lightly brushed with oil, dusted with salt and slow-roasted near the open flames. Mici (called Meech on the menu) arrive like Romanian sausages tucked into a warm pocket of lapinja (a Bosnian bread) that has been freshly made and hand-dipped into bone broth before being baked. Sasljik (shishkabobs) arrive on a wooden stand that displays the grilled meat and vegetables like dueling swords.

Oh, and they are making a Caesar salad pizza, and a taco pizza, as well.

“We have a lot more ideas we want to try out,” chuckles manager A.J. Dracic, who hopes they will sell enough pizza and Mediterranean food to sell both. So far, clientele seems very Eastern European, which comes as no surprise on a ten-block stretch of 30th Avenue that averages a pizzeria on every corner, including a few brick ovens. “But no one else is selling organic, gluten-free options,” explains Dracic. “Ideally, we want to be accessible to everybody.”

If you cannot find a chance to stop by their storefront next to Mini Star Diner at Steinway and 30th Avenue, they have a whole brick oven set up all summer long at the LIC Flea, where guests can order their wood-fired pizzas.

38-14 30th Ave., Astoria