Bracing Balkan bites to jazz up your appletini


The bar: La Fontana Pizzeria

The scene: Family-run, homey and warm with red-shaded chandeliers. Some nights (call for a schedule), there’s live music on the covered patio.

The bar bites: In the Venn diagram of cuisine, Balkan food is the spot where Turkish, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian and few other foodways of the eastern Mediterranean intersect.

But all you really need to know is this: Balkan pizza at La Fontana is worth the drive from wherever you are.

It may not even be authentically Balkan, but it is the right combination of smoky (from smoked beef), spicy (from a sausage called sudjuk), salty (from feta cheese) and luscious (from mozzarella) topping a thin rustic crust.

At $14.95, the pizza makes a bracing happy bar bite to offset the sweetness of old school cocktails such as an appletini or tequila sunrise.

La Fontana also serves Italian food, but it’s the Balkan specialties that make this hideaway in the back of Crystal Tree Plaza a find for an after-work drink or a nosh after running errands on a Saturday afternoon.

Run by a family of Bosnian and Croatian immigrants, the menu is a linguistic puzzle but our Macedonian waitress patiently explained and recommended until we had a table full of delicious delights.

We dipped the homemade bread called lipinje ($1.75) into a rich clotted cream cheese called kaymak ($1.25), and ajur ($1.75,) a smoky roasted red pepper and eggplant dip. Next time, we’ll opt for one of the “mezas,” platters of bread, meat, cheese and dips similar to a meze in Turkish cuisine.

A hot flaky pastry called burek ($7.75) arrived filled with savory ground meat and cheese. We contemplated cevapi, thin sausages wrapped in a pita ($6 or $12) or a burger stuffed with cheese called pljeskavica ($7 or $14) but with our stomachs bursting, our Balkan rhapsody needed a coda not a reprise.

The cocktail: An appletini isn’t new or unusual, but it’s sweet tart flavor makes a surprisingly good companion to the rich, cheese and meat-centric fare.

The deal: Happy hour is 3 to 7 p.m. seven days a week, with a different drink special every day. Martinis are half off on Mondays, Thirsty Thursdays mean $4 house wines or well drinks and $3 draft beer and Salty Sundays include $6 margaritas, Bloody Marys and mimosas.

The info: La Fontana Pizzeria, 1201 U.S. Highway One (in the Crystal Tree Plaza), North Palm Beach; 561-408-3295; PalmBeachPizza.net.



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