Featuring Eastern European entrees ranging from Chicken Kiev to Hungarian Goulash, Astoria International Bistro owners Levi and Svetlana Pakanaev say they have found a paradise where they are pleasing palates.
“We owned an Italian bistro in north Scottsdale for 10 years, along with a banquet and catering business,” said Levi. “The area got a little too big for us and after the pandemic, everything changed. Phoenix seems to have grown so fast, and just like any big city, you have good stuff and bad stuff.”
Selecting Camp Verde for their new restaurant was an easy choice for Svetlana. “I really like the cooler temperatures here and the people are all so nice and helpful. It’s clean, comfortable and so pretty.”
The team spends most of the day at their restaurant, from early morning until late evening. “Our restaurant is our life,” said Svetlana. “All our dishes are prepared from scratch. Nothing is prepackaged.”
“Svetlana was very attentive and she and her husband, Levi, have a passion for Old World cuisine. They have such an eclectic mix,” said Laura Gilbert, executive assistant to managing director at Enchantment Resort in Sedona. “I’m a trained Cordon Bleu chef so my palate is very discriminating. I would go back to support a business like that in our neighborhood. I love the fact that they have entertainment once a month, too.”
Levi began his epicurean career at a culinary institute in Russia before moving to Belgium, where he learned to bake chocolate pastries and the art of molding cakes. Svetlana was an emergency room doctor for several years in Russia.
“I had a conversation with myself about leaving my home country and losing my lifetime dream in the medical field or having the opportunity to try something new,” she said. “I decided that trying something new was OK.”
“My partner, George, and I have visited Astoria twice and we were pleasantly surprised by their menu items that are all homemade,” said Dr. Irina Del Genio, Yavapai College Verde Valley Administration Dean. “I was born in Uzbekistan and lived in Russia and Ukraine so I have an international background. The authenticity of this cooking represents the traditions of those regions. There is nothing like Astoria International Bistro in our area, so they fill a much-needed niche in local restaurants. They even handcraft their desserts and they have a nice family-like atmosphere and ambiance.”
“Restaurant owners don’t have a real life,” said Levi. “It seems like we are always working, even when we go home. But we love what we do and really enjoy seeing the smiles on our customers’ faces after a meal.”
The dining room at Astoria International Bistro can support events and small concerts and will be hosting a Diva Dinner with the Cottonwood Hālau Hula Nāpuaokalei ìlima Hula group.
“I had a wonderful dinner at Astoria International Bistro and saw that there was a lot space for events so I asked Svetlana and Levi if they would be willing to let our hula group host an event and she liked the idea,” said Cottonwood hula student Christine Bryson.
“Under the direction of our lead instructor Kehau Chrisman, our event will feature hula dancing and our Diva Dinner, a buffet with delicious entrees, salads and bruschetta board,” said Bryson.
Tommy Kling has worked at Astoria International Bistro since opening day. “I was born and raised in Camp Verde and grew up eating Eastern food, which is why I accepted this position. The food is authentic, and I receive a lot of comments about how it tastes just like their mom or grandmother used to make it. It’s been fun, I like my job a lot and I learn something new every day.”
“We visited with friends from Sedona and we all agreed that the food was excellent,” said Office Manager Patty Jonas, of Old World Guns. “The flavors were very new to us. A nice surprise was their beer-tasting event sponsored by Verde Brewing Company. It was very delightful and fun, and our friends had a blast.” QCBN
By V. Ronnie Tierney, QCBN
Astoria International Bistro is located at 348 S. Main Street in Camp Verde. For more information, call 928-567-6565 or visit www.astoria-international-bistro.com.
Photo by V. Ronnie Tierney, Fresh Focuses Photography: Astoria International Bistro owners Levi and Svetlana Pakanaev brought Eastern European flavors to Camp Verde after owning and operating their Italian bistro in Scottsdale.