The misspelled title may be an error in the language translation on the part of the foreign owner or a plan to draw attention. His probable flaws in spelling, he makes up for in charm. Branislaw Butina is a short man with brown rustled hair and a quick smile. It’s not about him though, it’s about the food. One of few places to get genuine Baltic food in St. Petersburg, The Mediteran Restaurant will have people from that region coming back and those of other ethnicities like me, in disbelief at the portion sizes and wondering about the recipes. He is not willing to disclose how he makes his ground meat based dishes look like real steak.
A Serbian neighbor and some of his other converts tried to explain the size of Butinas’s Pljeskavica. I said, “That’s what they all say.” He and I took our bicycles to the 4th Street restaurant ready for refreshment. In the cooler behind the counter I spied Pepsi, the old-fashioned way, in the small glass bottles, perfect to start. Since I couldn’t read the menu very well and I did not know what was good, Pedja ordered for me.
There was another Serbian man sitting at the counter and the three of them talked and talked in their language giving me plenty of time to occupy myself looking around the place. It definitely lacked a woman’s touch but that did not take away from the good atmosphere. It was small with about six tables and with mismatched chairs. Imitation plants stood in the corners. The walls held pictures without much thought to real decor.
The cabinets behind the guest counter where Butina began preparing our meals were bright purple. Attached to the front were his advertisings of cappuccinos and espressos. I had cappuccino for dessert, it was great.
A family with two teenagers ate their meal at one of the small tables and many times people entered the place to order something or pick up take-out food. As soon as my plate was placed in front of me I said, “This is ridiculous.” The meat was eight inches in diameter and fell a couples inches out of the sides of the special homemade bread and over the edge of the plate.
After looking at Pedja, Butina, and back again, I tried to figure out why he had brought me steak. I knew that’s not what I was expecting. Politely speaking to me in English he said it was ground meat and Butina had a secret for making it this unique texture. I kept saying as I cut through the sandwich trying to form manageable bites, “This is steak.”
Served with pepperochini, red onions, and sour cream I wanted to stop eating but could not. There seemed to be a lot of spices infused into the meat, as a matter of fact, Butina had asked me how I handled spice before he made it perfectly for me. The meat seemed airy but not spongy; I wish I knew how he did it. He would be happy to sell the meat after he had prepared it, but he wasn’t going to tell us how he did it. As an American that has enjoyed Indian, Lebanese, Thai, Italian, Hungarian, Greek, and maybe some other kinds of ethnic food, I felt the story about this Baltic treasure had to be told. People should go to The Mediteran Restaurant and experience these flavors.
The name can be deceiving, before my friend taught me otherwise; I would expect Greek or Italian cuisine. I was surely ignorant but if you are also, check this place out. I ate as much as I could and still had a full meal left. -notes to follow-
6500 4th St N
St. Petersburg FL 33702
Mon- Sun 7am-9pm closed Tue.