The Balkans comes to Water

dish-cetic-aBosnian-born Nemanja Cetic and his family opened the Balkan Bakery Caf© on Water Street.
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR

Refugees from the Balkans appear to love caf© culture, as evidenced by the gatherings Dish has often seen outside at Greenberry's, where long discussions in the guttural mother tongue are held over cups of coffee and cigarettes. So it's no surprise that we finally have a Balkan caf©, named appropriately enough the Balkan Bakery Caf©. The small space on West Water Street, beside Sidetracks Music, opened just two weeks ago, but visitors to the Charlottesville City Market have been familiar with the Cetic family's pastries, pies, and breads for the last three years.

"Everyone knows us at the Market," says Nemanja Cetic, 23, whose mother and father moved he and his sister here 10 years ago with the help of the local International Rescue Committee.

"We're from Bosnia, but we lived in Croatia, Serbia, all over when the war started," says Cetic, referring to the brutal conflict known as the Bosnian War (1992-1995), which claimed over 100,000 lives and created over a million refugees like the Cetics.

"I think we were like the third family that the IRC helped to re-locate here," he said.

Most of what they serve are traditional Balkan creations, says Cetic, such as their Meat Pie (Burek) and Cevapcici, a kind of grilled minced meat sandwich, the recipes for which are hundreds of years old, he says. Their traditional baklava is also a favorite.

Another special treat is their traditional Bosnian coffee, prepared by boiling finely ground coffee (along with sugar if you like) in a small, pear-shaped pot, at the bottom of which the coffee dregs settle before it is poured unfiltered into small cups. It's a simple method Dish has always thought of as Turkish coffee, but apparently the Bosnian method has variations that make it unique. Regardless, both methods yield a cup of coffee that is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

As Dish says good-bye and heads out the door, the fresh Burek warm in the brown paper bag between our fingers, we can't help but imagine what the Cetics had been through, and marvel at how far they'd come to this little spot on Water Street.