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Armstrong County Pasta maker takes his fruit-filled pierogi to Kennywood

| Sunday, July 13, 2014, 11:51 p.m.
Louis B. Ruediger
John Kaczor, 50, transfers dough in to a press that is used to make perogi's at his Cadogan shop. Thursday July 10, 2014
Louis B. Ruediger
John Kaczor, 50, and his mother Ann Kaczor, 92, are framed in a ravioli stamp template that she bought in the mid '40s for her homemade raviolis. Kaczor continues to use the same stamps and recipes of his mother.
Louis B. Ruediger
John Kaczor shows some of his fruit-filled perogis made in his Cadogan shop. Thursday July 10, 2014
Louis B. Ruediger
Finished fruit-filled perogis are picked from a bin at Kaczor's Cadogan shop. Thursday July 10, 2014

This summer, John Kaczor's dreams of running his own business have taken him from Cadogan to Kennywood.

Kaczor's new twist on traditional pierogi is wowing the folks at the amusement park.

The owner of the Cadogan-based Kaczor Ravioli Co. and a friend came up with the fruit-filled pierogi. Instead of potato, cheese or sauerkraut, Kaczor stuffs these with apple, lemon, blueberry, even chocolate. And after a light dusting with powdered sugar, pierogi is reminiscent of a puff pastry and a funnel cake.

After passing out samples at a Glassport grocery store earlier this year, Kaczor had another eureka moment. He wasn't far from Kennywood — a place big on fun food, in an area rich with ethnic food tradition.

“That's right in the heart of pierogi country,” he said. “Where I really needed to be.”

Kaczor made an appointment with the West Mifflin park. In April, he met with food service management, who greeted him, fryers at the ready.

“One bite out of it and they were like, ‘this is a really good product for the park,' ” Kaczor said.

Kennywood introduced the fruit-filled pierogi in May, selling them at the funnel cake stand near the Log Jammer.

For $5.25, guests get three pierogi with their choice of filling. The deep-fried treats can be ordered plain or topped with strawberries and ice cream.

If Kennywood deems them a success, it's likely the dessert dumplings will return next summer.

The menu item is catching on, according to Mike Henninger, the park's food service director.

“It's something unique you don't see at a lot of places,” Henninger said. “It fits really well with Pittsburgh.”

For 50-year-old Kaczor, the road to Kennywood — and full-time pasta production — has proved as interesting as any of the amusement park's rides.

He founded his company in 2011, selling ravioli, gnocchi and pierogi at local festivals, for fundraisers and at area grocery stores.

His Italian mother taught him how to make ravioli when he was a teen. For years, Kaczor crafted homemade pasta for holidays and special occasions, often with the help of his wife, Marsha, and their friends. He worked at Key Bellevilles near Leechburg for years, but always dreamed of entering the pasta business.

“I was always still wanting to do my ravioli gig, you know?” he said.

He took the chance three years ago when a coworker scoffed at his dream.

Kaczor went home that night and put $6,000 down on an Italian-made ravioli machine. Two years later, he left Key Bellevilles behind.

Now he's working out of the same kitchen where his mother taught him to make ravioli. Half of the duplex is his headquarters, while 92-year-old Ann Kaczor makes her home on the other side.

Ann said she always knew her son would be a successful business owner, but didn't realize he'd do so using her meat ravioli recipe.

“He was just a young boy, not even a teen, yet talking about his own business,” she said.

She credits his father, Stanley, with instilling in their children a sense of perfectionism and a solid work ethic.

She said she's proud he's using her meat ravioli recipe, along with the pierogi with potato and cheese that he learned from a Polish aunt.

Taken together, it seems Kaczor's family instilled in him a recipe for success.

“I'm doing what my dad taught me to do, be an independent thinker and don't back down,” he said. “I know what I bring to the table.”

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1315 or jmartin@tribweb.com.

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