Where chef Ivana Raca eats Bosnian food in the burbs
We’re going on the road with some of the city’s top chefs to explore their favourite suburban restaurants. Ivana Raca, executive chef and owner of Raca Café and Bar, tells us what’s good in Etobicoke
When Toronto chef Ivana Raca isn’t behind the pass at her Parkdale restaurant, Raca Café, she spends a lot of time in Mississauga visiting her sister, Jelena. Raca’s family moved from the former Yugoslavia to Canada in 1994, during the Bosnian War. “The war really shaped us; it gave us strength and confidence. We had to leave the country without our dad, and we didn’t see him for three months. He eventually joined us in Serbia, but during those months, we didn’t know if he was alive. I feel like I can survive anything after going through that.” When Raca feels homesick, she visits Mrakovic, a family-run meat and deli counter in Etobicoke that’s been operating for nearly 15 years, with her sister.
Mrakovic Meat and Deli
44 Wellesworth Dr., Etobicoke, 416-695-7396, mrakovic.com
Raca pick ups hard-to-find imported products at Mrakovic. The best part of her visit is sitting at the back of the deli for an authentic Bosnian meal.
Go-to item #1: Ajvar, a thick red-pepper relish.
Tasting notes: “I like to put ajvar on toast—it gives it a spicy kick.”
Go-to item #2: Smoked beef
Tasting notes: “It’s a staple in any Bosnian family. We buy blocks of it, slice it really thin and serve it with smoked cheese and ajvar. We usually eat it as an appetizer, like charcuterie.”
Go-to item #3: Imported candies.
Tasting notes: “This hard licorice candy has been made in Serbia for nearly a century. We loved it as kids.”
Go-to item #4: Burek, phyllo stuffed with chopped seasoned potatoes. $7.
Tasting notes: “There are a few different types of burek: spinach, meat, potato and cheese. My favourite has always been the potato—it’s so good with yogurt or just on its own.”
Go-to item #5: Sarajevo-style cevapi, a skinless sausage made from minced beef and lamb, stuffed into lepinje (a soft flatbread) and served with clotted cream and onions. $10.
Tasting notes: “Cevapi is a very traditional dish. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but when I feel like it, this is what I get.”