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World eats: Liver dumplings

The mere mention of liver dumplings inevitably elicits the sort of puzzled expressions usually prompted by such foods as sweetbreads and smoked eel.

But with the Chicago area boasting a hefty serving of Czech restaurants, liver dumplings - jatrove knedlicky - ladled into steaming bowls of broth are ubiquitous.

Czech cooks aren't the only ones with liver dumpling soup in their recipe files. Visit a German or Austrian eatery and you're bound to find it offered on the menu, with the dumplings varying in size from that of a walnut to a big plum. We even found a recipe in a book on cooking in Luxembourg.

Ask someone if they have a favorite liver dumpling and they'll usually mention a grandmother with the culinary know-how to turn out a light dumpling. Basically, the Czech liver dumpling consists of finely chopped liver (usually chicken or beef) mixed with egg, garlic, butter, a bit of parsley, pepper and just enough dry breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together. Add too many breadcrumbs and you end up with rock-hard dumplings, cautions Rosemarie Hevrdejs, our culinary consultant and liver dumpling pro. The dumplings, sometimes seasoned with marjoram, are then cooked in boiling broth.

We found two delicious examples of liver dumplings at Bohemian Crystal in Westmont and Corner Restaurant in Brookfield. The soup, offered as one of the first courses in multicourse dinners, is also available on its own, perfect alongside, say, a smoked butt on fresh rye sandwich.

Steady lines at Bohemian Crystal, especially on weekends, attest to the good food and good prices. On its own, a bowl dominated by the tender dumplings costs $1.80 and is available Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

At Corner Restaurant, a good broth features mild-flavored, light-textured, walnut-sized dumplings at $2.10 a bowl, available Sundays only.

--Margaret Sheridan and Judy Hevrdejs
Published on April 9, 1999

Bohemian Crystal Takes Diners Back To The Old Country

Old World food is best savored when it's served amid plate racks lined with hand-painted china and display cases of delicate crystal goblets and decanters, all imported from Czechoslovakia, say Jerry and Ilona Zita, who bought Bohemian Crystal Restaurant, Westmont, last year. Ilona became manager of the eatery in 1982, a year after it opened.

"The restaurant is named in honor of a manufacturer of fine glassware and crystal that is well-known in Czechoslovakia," explained Jerry. "Many of our customers have a German and Slavic ancestry, and they appreciate revisiting the traditions, like glassmaking, that are so much a part of the old country."

There are lots of ethnic works of art to amuse the eye of patrons while they satisfy their appetite for authentic Czech fare with big platters of bratwurst, succulent roast duckling and lamb shank prepared with homemade barley dressing, accompanied by mounds of sweet and sour cabbage, stacks of crispy potato pancakes, big helpings of potato dumplings and flaky kolacky pastries.

"Our chef is from Czechoslovakia, and all our recipes are authentic," Ilona said. "If you go to dinner in Czechoslovakia, you will find many of the same dishes that are on our menu, and they are prepared the same way."

The 7,200-square-foot restaurant includes a 135-seat dining room, a 100-seat banquet room and a private dinner party room with seating for up to 25.

--By Mary Peterson Kauffold. Special to the Tribune.
Published on February 4, 1996