Tue 2/13 @ 5AM-5PM
The rallying cry for bakers and lovers of the paczki dessert is it’s not a donut. The truth is, once you taste the culinary equivalent of steroids you won’t care what it’s called as long as you can have another.
The only thing that rivals its caloric intake is Northeast Ohio’s interest in Rudy’s Strudel & Bakery’s annual Paczki Day, which is always on Fat Tuesday. This year’s affair will invariably draw thousands of folks to the Ridge Road business in Parma.
Musically, kicking off the party will be DJ C. Randolph C followed by Andrew the Mailman from WRUW’s “Polka Changed my Life Today.” Next, there’s live polka with Tom Mroczka and the Music Box. Terrestrial Brewing Co. will be on hand selling old-world inspired beer. There’s also raffles, trivia contests, prizes, a selfie station and polka instructors.
CoolCleveland talked to Rudy’s Strudel & Bakery owner Lidia Trempe about the diet-busting paczki.
CoolCleveland: What is all of the hoopla surrounding Paczki Day?
Lidia Trempe: Paczki Day is Fat Tuesday. It’s a day that we — the Polish, the Ukrainians, the Slovenians — have to get everything in the world out of our cupboards like eggs, jellies and jams because we have six weeks of Lent. So there’s no fun during that. We really whoop it up the day before. We have live polka bands, we pipe out the music outside for everybody in line, and we always have a brewery. This year we have Terrestrial Brewery from Battery Park. We have polka instructors on hand to polka it up because again we’re going to have six weeks of no dancing, no eating. We’ll pass out kielbasa and bread to go with the beer. You have to soak that up too. This year we’ll probably have a pierogi popup where you can buy pierogis while in line.
CC: We know a paczki isn’t a donut. Can you explain what it is?
LT: It’s a perfect package of pre-Lent love. It’s not a donut, it’s not even close to a donut. It’s four times the eggs, four times the butter, quadruple the filling, and we here at Rudy’s really like to share our Polish heritage. We’re proud to be the bakery that offers the most flavors. We invented several years ago the Savory Paczki, which is life-altering. We do a Paczki with sauerkraut and kielbasa, which we call the Clevelander. We have the Polish Village, which is potatoes, three cheeses, sauerkraut and kielbasa. Then we have a Murray Hill, which is Italian sausage and peppers. And for people who don’t want sweet paczki for breakfast, we have the Breakfast for Champions, which is egg, cheese and bacon on a paczki, which is mind-altering good.
CC: So is Paczki Day an old country tradition?
LT: It is. Actually in Poland it starts on the Thursday before Lent. I’m hoping to one day find myself in Poland for that.
CC: How long has Parma’s Rudy’s Strudel & Bakery been hosting Paczki Day?
LT: The big party we’ve been doing for about five years now. We have a police officer directing traffic. We’ve been told that Ridge Road gets blocked up to I-480. People getting off the highway are heading our way. It grows every year. It started with just like a Polish Village vibe. Now it’s hysterical to see the amazing amount of different people in line. You have small children, you get hipsters from Ohio City, doctors from Parma Hospital. And the best part of it is, there is a line and there is a wait, but we make sure that it’s painless as it can with all of the entertainment, eating, contests and dancing. But everybody in line makes friends with whoever you are in line with next to, behind you, around you. I see people exchanging phone numbers, and random strangers polka, it’s so much fun.
CC: It sounds like you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced Paczki Day.
LT: Oh, you absolutely have not, without a doubt. And you can’t find this everywhere. People are calling us already to ship paczki to Arizona or Florida. We’re so lucky to be in Cleveland where we have this great ethnic diversity and people come to celebrate all ethnicities.
CC: Just an FYI for those hungry folks planning on attending Paczki Day. Will EMS be standing by outside and do you sell Tums?
LT: (laughs) We could have Alka-Seltzer on hand, but there’s no need. That’s for Ash Wednesday.