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New Odessa: From Bologna to Beluga 

International market and cafe offers comfort food for Russian ex-pats

In the seemingly staid shopping center at the corner of Briarcliff and Clairmont, there's an ever-morphing mesh of ethnic eateries. Along with a rather generic Asian buffet and strip-mall sports bar, the Williamsburg Village Center holds a couple of Ethiopian restaurants as well as a mysterious "private special African gentlemen club" I was shooed out of. Hey -- the outer signage says it's a bakery. Who knew that was code?

The welcome is much warmer at the neighboring New Odessa International Market and Café. The family-owned business has been an unassuming anchor in the shopping center for years, where it's a fave of Russian immigrants seeking comfort food from the former Soviet Union. It's also an inexpensive lunch spot where fresh deli sandwiches, homemade soups and assorted pastries can be enjoyed in the store's simple seating area or ordered in abundance to go. The owner is currently expanding both the cafe menu and the store's staples to include more international goods such as French chocolates, baked goods and a more extensive beer and wine selection. Additionally, a second New Odessa is set to open in a couple of months on Holcomb Bridge Road.

Planetary pastries: Some of the best new items featured are the savory pastries. The khachapuri is a pocket of delicate dough filled with homemade cheese. Cheburek, blintzes and fried or baked pirozkis are fun little packages filled with beef, chicken, cabbage, potato, apple and farmer-cheese stuffings. At just a dollar or two per pastry, it's easy to create an affordable party plate. French-style eggplants full of mayo, stuffed cabbage, and garlic and carrots are also among the newer offerings.

More familiar fare includes the deli sandwiches stuffed full of Boar's Head meats, imported cheeses and imaginative spreads on fresh breads. The Moscow Glutton is a mountain of a sandwich for just $4.95. It combines smoked kielbasa, bologna, branded deluxe ham, Havarti cheese spread and veggies with a smear of Russian potato salad. The more health-conscious might try the Vegetarian Demand, where grilled portobello and smoked Gouda, lettuce and tomatoes are served on a focaccia bun. Round it out with real homemade borscht or chicken noodle soup and a side of sauerkraut or beet salad.

Condiment collection: If you have time to browse, check out the store's stock of preserves packed in pretty jars; mustards and horseradish selections; instant white-beet and goulash soup mixes; medicinal tonics and dried teas made of linden flowers; dog-rose berries; red poppy and other ingredients plucked from foreign forests.

Grab a package of suski, an intriguing doughnut-shaped crisp cookie that comes in all sorts of flavors. Check out the selection of lively labeled kvas bottles that hold a popular soft drink made of bread yeast and spices. Grainy breads, cheeses, smoked fish, sausages and caviars are abundant in the cooler section.

Another kingdom's candy: Perhaps the most fun in the store lies in the candy bins, which hold beautiful, individually wrapped bon bons and toffees that explode with plum syrup or nutty fillings. Little bears and cherubic children, forest scenes and gypsy ladies mark the wrappings, making them almost as intriguing as the goodies inside. Each wrapper is more colorful than the next, except for the lone black and simple wrapping in one candy bin labeled simply "vodka." That'll keep the kiddies running back for more.

New Odessa International Market and Deli

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