From Russia with love

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“Everything I do, I do on the principle of Russian borscht.
You can throw everything into it — beets, carrots,
cabbage, onions, everything you want. What’s important
is the result, the taste of the borscht.”
— Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Russian poet.

How often do you find yourself calling your husband or boyfriend only to tell him that you just made an extravagant purchase, such as an expensive dress or ring? Twenty-two years ago, Ludmila Slezinger called her husband to let him know that she had just bought … a restaurant. That is how the story of the most highly rated Russian restaurant in Massachusetts began.

Ludmila and her husband, Natan, opened Café St. Petersburg in 1993. Natan Slezinger, who used to be a famous theatre producer in Russia, applied his artistic talent to create the restaurant’s elegant atmosphere. Photos of famous Russian actors, musicians, and poets who have stopped by adorn the lobby wall.

During Soviet times, Russians did not go out much. Instead, they cooked at home and they cooked a lot. Hospitality was part of the Russian way of life, with relatives, neighbors, and friends welcomed to share a meal anytime. Cooking and eating became a special ritual in Russian culture – one that brought everybody together.

Each Russian family had their own recipes for borscht (a traditional meat soup with beets) or pelimeni (Russian style meat ravioli), which made every meal unique.

The interior of Café St. Petersburg (PartyTime Boston)

The interior of Café St. Petersburg (Courtesy of PartyTime Boston)

Ludmila Slezinger learned how to cook from her mother-in-law, Galina Zelenskaya. Today, she is an expert of Russian cuisine.

One of her students, Kristina Lapuc, loved to cook for her big family with three kids, and her decision to apply for a chef assistant position at Café St. Petersburg came naturally. Being of Polish origin, the transition to the very similar Russian cuisine was seamless. For the last 11 years, Lapuc has served as the Executive Chef of the restaurant.

Café St. Petersburg has been rated one of the top restaurants by Zagat Restaurant Guide, Boston Magazine, and

“We always focus on the quality of food and we buy only the freshest ingredients,” Ludmila said. “That is one of the reasons why we’re still so successful.”

On some nights, musicians play gypsy or classical music. “We hope not only to feed our guests but also entertain them,” Ludmila explained. Recently, the restaurant started working with an event company, PartyTime Boston, which hosts and organizes popular events there.

If you would like to try black vodka, you have to come on Friday, Oct. 30th, to celebrate Russian Boston Halloween with Café St. Petersburg, their bartender Misha, and PartyTime Boston.

Our favorite dishes from Café St. Petersburg:

— Russian Solianka: a soup that contains meat, vegetables, capers, pickled cucumbers, and spices.

Borscht (PartyTime Boston)

Borscht (Courtesy of Cafe St. Petersburg)

— Borscht: a traditional Russian meat soup with beets, cabbage and potatoes.

— Pozharski Cutlet: a bagel-breaded ground chicken served with mushroom sauce.

— Beef Stroganoff: a sliced fillet sautéed with cream and spices.

— Russian Herring: pickled by an ancient Russian tradition, served with boiled potatoes.

— Olivier Salad: cubed chicken, potatoes, carrots, eggs, pickles and cucumbers, mixed with mayonnaise

Blintzes: crepes.

— Pirozhki: baked buns stuffed with various fillings.

The restaurant is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from noon to 11 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from noon to 1 a.m. It is located at 57 Union St., Suite 1, Newton Center. Contact the restaurant at 617-467-3555 or 617-467-3133.