From pierogi to kielbasa to gołąbki, Eva Zaczynski and her family have been serving authentic Polish food in Syracuse for more than 25 years.  

When Zaczynski moved to the Salt City from Poznan, Poland, in 1988, she started cooking in the Sacred Heart convent, where she prepared meals for the 13 nuns living there.  

Customers dine at Eva's European Sweets. (Emily Kenny/Spectrum News 1)

The nuns would pick their own menu daily, and since they immigrated from Poland or had Polish heritage, Zacynski refined her cooking skills, and they helped her learn more English.  

“It was really helpful for me because sometimes when I had a recipe, they would write it in Polish and then write it in English,” Zaczynski said.  

They encouraged her to open her restaurant, despite her hesitation, because they enjoyed her cooking so much.  

An employee at Eva's makes pierogi. (Emily Kenny/Spectrum News 1)

“I would say I don’t want to open a business, but then little by little, we started looking for places and we decided, we’re going to do that,” she said.  

In July 1997, Eva’s European Sweets on Milton Avenue in Syracuse opened its doors. Zaczynski recalls it being a Sunday as they were hoping people would come after church.

“It started here, and it’s just been a never-ending story and it just keeps going and going,” she said. “My menu is almost the same as when we started.”  

Karolina Marcinkowski, Zaczynski’s daughter, said they often have customers come in looking for the same dish they had 20 years ago.  

“They’re so happy to see that you still have [the same] sandwich on the menu,” Marcinkowski said.  

Cocktails and polish vodka from Eva's. (Emily Kenny/Spectrum News 1)

The signature of Zaczynski’s menu is her pierogi, an authentic Polish dumpling. She serves both savory and sweet varieties.  

“Now, we have all different kinds of pierogi, but we started with the basics: potato with cheese, potato with meats, sauerkraut, potato mushroom. I think the basics sell the most, but sometimes I did potato and bacon and then I did potato and cheddar,” Zaczynski said.  

In 2013, popular food guru Guy Fieri featured the restaurant on his series “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” which rapidly increased their customer base.  

“Our business grew from that point forward and that was 10 years ago, because people purposely look for restaurants that he has been to. So we really had to adjust to the customer volume and everything that comes with that,” Marcinkowski said.

Cakes available at Eva's. (Emily Kenny/Spectrum News 1)

But Zaczynski faced the challenge like she has any other, Marcinkowski said.  

“It’s a testament to who she is because I think any challenge that she has faced, she’s been like OK, I have to pull up my sleeves and figure out how to overcome it,” she said.  

Zaczynski credits the loyal customer base and employees for the success of her restaurant.  

“I do have wonderful people in the kitchen, the ladies, they take care of each other,” Zaczynski said. “During COVID, I’d have customers come and ask, ‘Can I go to the store for you?’ So, I’m lucky that I do have very very loyal customers and I think that keeps us in business.” 

Karolina Macinkowski (right), Eva Zaczynski (center), her grand children (center) and Allison Perkins, the general manager, (left) pose for a portrait.