IN THE KITCHEN Artur Andronic came to the Boston area six years ago from the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, to complete an MBA program. He wanted to start a restaurant and considered an Italian concept before recognizing that a Moldovan spot, based on some of his native country’s greatest culinary hits, was the right fit.
Andronic and his wife, Sandra, opened Moldova Restaurant April 1. They were married last year, and getting this venture up and running has been “quite the honeymoon,” he said. Head chef Victor Sorici is a good friend from Moldova who attended culinary school and “knows about Moldovan cuisine because, in our culture, we always cook at home for big family parties, and recipes come down from generation to generation,” Andronic said.
THE LOCALE Moldova Restaurant is on Watertown Street in Newton’s Nonantum village. On one wall of the bright space, a map identifies Moldova, sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, while other walls are trimmed with vibrant floral motifs and photographs. There are seven tables for four and two longer tables with bench seating adorned with colorful throw pillows.
ON THE MENU Moldovan cuisine has been influenced by traditions of many of its neighbors. Andronic said the kitchen dedicated a great deal of time to developing classic Moldovan recipes into dishes that could be easily recognized by diners familiar with the cuisine but that would also appeal to individuals who might be entirely unfamiliar with it.
Replicating the tastes of Moldova can be difficult. For instance, “We probably tasted 40 types of feta cheese [to find one] that would bring out the taste like back at home,” Andronic said.
Like Moldova itself, the menu is not especially large, but it provides a nice overview of the country’s cooking. Take the perfect-for-sharing pies: nearly flat, circular discs, at least 8 inches across, stuffed with various fillings and lightly pan-fried until golden and flaky. There are currently five on the menu; two of them, filled with cherries and apples, could easily serve as desserts. Of the more savory pies, which include potato and cabbage fillings, we selected the one brimming with cheese and scattered with scallions and herbs such as dill ($8.25). Many households in the Moldovan countryside have their own small farms with cows and sheep; the resulting dairy products “came to be one of the essential parts of dinner in any household,” Andronic said.
From the appetizers section, a cold eggplant mix ($6.95) is flecked with red pepper and parsley and served with thick-cut white bread. “Whenever there’s a big event in any household, this is one of the basic items you find on the table,” Andronic said. Ditto the white-bean paste with caramelized onions ($6.95).
Of the few entrees on the menu, we ordered the roasted chicken stew ($13.95). The bite-sized pieces of poultry, pungent with garlic, arrive on a sizzling skillet, rather than in the anticipated bowl; Andronic explains that the restaurant adapted the dish to feature less broth than in traditional recipes. It comes with a mound of polenta and, on the side, dishes of salty sheep’s cheese and sour cream to mix into it. The entrée menu also includes a pork stew and sarmale, stuffed cabbage and grape leaves carefully rolled by hand.
Don’t skip sour-cherry crepes ($8.95) at the end of the meal, the thin pancakes rolled around the cherries, slathered with a house-made mix of heavy cream, sour cream, and sugar, sprinkled with shaved chocolate, then assembled into a pyramid. With dessert — or at any time — there are coffee drinks and fresh fruit punch made from apples and sour cherries.
Moldova Restaurant is at 344 Watertown St. in Newton; 617-916-5245, www.tastemoldova.com. Monday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.