[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]
HUBBARD — Lena Stefanski, owner of Lena’s Pierogi House, aims to serve traditional Hungarian and Czechoslovakian recipes to the Mahoning Valley — with her own personal twist.
The family-run Hungarian restaurant at 20 North Main St. offers daily pierogi options, like cheddar-potato and Hungarian pepper, and dinner platters, like stuffed cabbage or the “Polish Platter.”
“I felt like there was a need to have [a restaurant] like this, especially year-round when the churches are not [making] this kind of food,” Stefanski said.
Lena’s Pierogi House opened in Struthers in January 2016. Eventually, the business outgrew its space and it moved to Hubbard in November 2019.
“I used to make pierogies for my family and all my friends [in] my kitchen. I was up till 1 a.m. making pierogies, [and] then I had to get up and I had to go to work. I worked a full-time job and did that at the same time. So it got to be a little crazy,” she said.
Now, Stefanski's original recipes, like BBQ chicken and taco-flavored pierogies, are popular with the public, too. Stefanski told Mahoning Matters Lena’s Pierogi House often runs out of tables.
“There are times when we are on like a three- or four-hour wait because we just can't take any more orders,” she said.
“I love to go out to dinner and try new things. So every time I try something, I'll go, ‘Oh my gosh, that would be so delicious in a pierogi,’ and then I'll try it and it is delicious,” she added.
“There are so many different pierogies that we don't even have listed on our menu that we put in the rotation all the time. I'm always looking for inspiration.”
Stefanski said she loved to cook from a young age. She grew up watching her grandmother make and sell homemade pierogies out of her basement nearly 40 years ago.
“My mom, she was real sick when we were younger. So I kind of took over the cooking for the family. ... I've always had this passion for it,” Stefanski said. “Then when my children were younger, I started bringing them into the kitchen.”
Stefanski used her children’s interest in cooking as an opportunity to familiarize them, and herself, with recipes from their family’s Hungarian and Czechoslovakian background. From there, Lena’s Pierogi House was born.
Stefanski said the restaurant wouldn’t be possible without the support of her husband, Jimmy, who does all the “behind the scenes” work, like fixing equipment.
“Our teamwork shows throughout the building,” she said.
“I just hope that my kids take it over, because I get a lot of remarks when the younger generation are coming in and they're like, ‘I'm so happy you're here because my grandma, she passed away and we never learned how to do this,’ or, ‘My mom, she passed away, or she's sick, and we never learned how to do this.’ So a lot of the younger generation is not continuing on with this tradition. I feel like it's going to start dying if we don't get back to the basics a little bit.”
Currently, Lena’s Pierogi House is open from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Stefanski said she plans to open at 10 a.m. once a few staff positions are filled.