WENATCHEE — When customers with Eastern European roots talk to Inna Kazulina after a meal at her restaurant, she hopes to hear one thing.
That her meal brought back good memories.
“For me, when people say that your food is like what my mom did or my grandma did, that makes me happy,” says the Ukrainian native who owns Inna’s Cuisine in downtown Wenatchee.
Inna’s Cuisine opened 14 years ago with an emphasis on recipes from Russia, Ukraine, Greece and Italy. Think beef stroganoff, cabbage rolls, red borscht and pierogi or dumplings.
Among the most popular items on the menu are combination plates. Another popular item is arrabbiata salmon.
Kazulina finds in hard to figure out her favorite dish — “I like them all” — but she notes a fondness for lamb with cherry sauce, and chicken pistachio with sherry sauce.
Her menu also includes gluten-free soups, appetizers and main courses.
She also notes that, “We make our pasta from scratch; we make our own dough.”
The restaurant exudes an Eastern European atmosphere: Individual tables, all with white tablecloths; a long bar where customers can sit and dine; and a large mural, painted several years ago by local artist Herb Schramel. It depicts a European cityscape and takes up a full wall.
Kazulina has enjoyed cooking since she was a young woman. After high school, she spent two years at an international cooking school, then graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology in public catering.
“I’ve always liked to cook,” she says. “I like being creative, creating the taste and presentation.”
After graduation, she worked as a cook and waitress for a cruise-ship business. There, she met her future husband, Sergiy Kazulin. He was chief engineer on one of the boats she was working on. Kazulin still works as a chief engineer on large ships, now working out of Seattle-area ports.
In 1997, Kazulina’s dream of being in the restaurant business began looking more realistic. Her husband won a green card in a lottery and the couple, with a young son, moved to Wenatchee. A daughter followed several years later. Both now work at the restaurant.
“We wanted a better life for our children,” Kazulina says.
Early on, she worked as a cook at Visconti’s Italian Restaurant in Wenatchee, then she opened a coffee shop downtown, called Coffee Depot. She operated that for six years.
A turning point came when she started cooking up borscht and piroshki for her coffee-shop customers. Customers, she says, liked her cooking but, with room for only three tables, the coffee shop was a tight fit.
She found a large space downtown, created a business plan and opened Inna’s Cuisine in 2005.
The menu has changed a bit over the years, as Kazulina catered to customer requests but, she says, it is still focuses on the same European mainstays.
Recently, she began doing business with Uber Eats and Dashing Driver so customers can get their favorite meals delivered to their homes. She also does catering, and she operates a booth at the food fair during the Apple Blossom Festival.
Among her favorite activities is cooking up special meals for Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. And, she says, she loves making special considerations for people who are celebrating a wedding or an anniversary.
The restaurant, which employs six people, is open for lunch and dinner. In addition to Kazulina, there are two cooks, whom, she says, she has trained in her unique ways of cooking.
The restaurant, which has a full bar, features seven types of Russian beer and six types of Russian vodka.
Kazulina prides herself on making a good cocktail.
“I make the best Lemon Drop in town,” she says. “My drinks are consistent. It doesn’t matter how busy I am, I’m measuring.”
The menu also features house-made desserts, including chocolate cake, tiramisu, creme brulee, baklava and white chocolate cheesecake.
The most challenging part of owning a restaurant, she says, is how all-encompassing it is.
“You have to think about it all the time,” she says. “It’s like your children.”
Kazulina says she is proud that she created “this restaurant from scratch, and we’re still here after 14 years.”
She is looking forward to many more years.
“I love cooking and I love to meet people,” Kazulina says. “I love my customers and I love this community. It’s nice because I have been accepted in this community.”