DERBY — As Kasia Konefal prepared for the celebration that would follow her daughter’s first communion, she realized she was tired of the usual food options available.
“I was thinking of the food I wanted and it hit me: I think I would really like to open my own restaurant,” Konefal said. “I like to cook and usually cater all of our family parties. I finally got the courage to say out loud that this is what I want to do.”
For years, Konefal’s husband had encouraged her to open her own business, and this realization was the push she needed. As a Polish family, Konefal said opening a Polish restaurant was the perfect idea.
And after living in Derby nearly 10 years, Konefal said the area felt like home to her.
It is also home to many other members of the Polish community. According to the last U.S. Census estimates, from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, more than 10 percent of the nearly 13,000 people who call Derby home identified as Polish. In neighboring Ansonia and Shelton, another nearly 7,000 people identified as Polish.
In fact, their presence has become even more apparent in the Valley in the last six months, with the September opening of Warszawa Restaurant in Ansonia preceding the opening of Konefal’s Kasia Eatery & Catering at 143 Main St. in Derby.
Konefal said when planning her restaurant she wanted a small place that had dine-in, take-out and catering options. As the main chef, Konefal said she is able to experiment with the foods she makes. She finds inspiration in other dishes she doesn’t typically make and adds her own flair to the dish.
The food available at the restaurant is made fresh, in house every day by Konefal and her aunt.
For the time being, Konefal said business is not busy enough where a large staff is necessary. But this can also be attributed to the cafeteria-style setting of the restaurant.
“It’s a cozy atmosphere,” Konefal said. “All the food is set out in a buffet-style steam table that’s covered. Everybody can see what is there and pick from what they want.”
Customers are able to browse the food available to them, fill a plate, pay for the meal and enjoy it in the dining area provided.
Though customers can expect to see freshly made pierogies and stuffed cabbage at the restaurant, Konefal said there are other options. “We cater to everybody,” she said. “It’s not just Polish food. There’s some Italian (food) — a little bit of everything.”
Konefal said the most popular item during the week is usually the chicken cutlet. But she said the stuffed cabbage is a big seller, as well.
Looking ahead, Konefal said she would like to make her own products to sell to customers and she would like to expand. She said she likes the restaurant’s current location, and directly above her restaurant is a large hall that Konefal said she would love to someday take over.
And Konefal had some words of encouragement for those on the fence about whether to give the place a try.
“It doesn’t hurt to try new things,” Konefal said. “It’s not just stuffed cabbage and sauerkraut and pierogies. If you come down and see the variety of foods we have in our steam table case, I’m sure you will find something you might just love.”