Stylowa: Where steelworkers learned the etiquette of the elite
It seems like an ordinary restaurant — just another place like so many others. So, why is it worth writing about it? This restaurant is a kind of local legend. Once the most exclusive restaurant in Nowa Huta, it then became an elegant cafe and after a year, again a restaurant. Stylowa (meaning Stylish) has sat in the same prestigious place next to Rose Avenue for over half a century. Its grand opening took place July 22, 1956.
?At that time, Stylowa gathered the elite of Nowa Huta: lawyers, professors, artists and engineers from the steelworks,? states Stanislawa Olchawa, the manager of the restaurant. ?The personnel wore uniforms and men had to be dressed in suits and ties to enter the dances that were organized in the restaurant.?
Stylowa was first categorized as a top class restaurant. It was decorated with splendor and taste: painted white with golden highlights, numerous mirrors, wonderful crystal chandeliers, solid tables and chairs, marble floor and pillars. At the entrance, a doorman decided if potential customers could go into the restaurant or not. Stylowa was establishing the standards of the ?high life? for the residents of Nowa Huta.
Stylowa hosted delegations from abroad on numerous times and was a gathering place after the May 1 parade ? the biggest and most important socialistic ceremony, honoring Labor Day
In the 1960s, the restaurant was changed into a cafe, but still the level of service remained high. The house specialty became ?Cake Arlekin,? but in fact all cakes and pastries of the Stylowa were widely esteemed, known as the best in Nowa Huta.
Everything changed in the 1970s. The government put controls on the price of alcohol and abolished all bars, pubs and restaurants . This was the opening introduction of Nowa Huta?s steelworkers to the world of etiquette.
?Stylowa started to burst at the seams,? says the manager. ?Everyone could afford a glass of beer or something stronger in here then. The cafe was overcrowded all the time.?
Apart from Kapitan beer (the only one available then), there was a selection of cognacs and wines, which were also popular among the restaurant?s clientele.
But not only alcohol was selling well. Customers ordered ice cream, fruit milkshakes, jellies and coffee. For some time, coffee was even served free of charge when cakes were ordered.
In 1973, Stylowa gained a new neighbor ? a massive monument of Lenin just outside the entrance. An anecdote says that some amused customers of Stylowa ordered a meal for the leader. Whereupon, a lavishly paid waiter jumped out of the cafe and ran to leave a pork chop at the feet of the monument. The prosperity and reputation of Stylowa lasted until the beginning of the 1980s, when crisis and martial law came. After the decline of communism, the restaurant was privatized and restored to a restaurant.
The majority of Stylowa staff have been working in the restaurant for many years, some for over 20. This is not usual in this profession.
?The past atmosphere of Stylowa seems to be coming back,? states Stanislawa Olchawa. ?The customers are becoming more well-mannered. Clashes that happened some time back are unthinkable now. But, actually, Krakow brings us our entire clientele.?
Most tourists that land in Stylowa are participants of Crazy Tours. These tours are organized by Crazy Guides, a group of city guides who show guests around Nowa Huta in an old East German Trabant or Polish Fiat 125. Stylowa is a constant stop on their route.
?Tourists are usually surprised by Nowa Huta ? and that includes Stylowa. They say this kind of restaurant in England or America would be a gold mine,? laughs Olchawa.
There are touching moments, too.
?Sometimes people who visited frequently during the 1950s come back here after years of emigration. They are really moved that their favorite restaurant still exists. Stylowa was a place where people met and formed meaningful relationships,? Olchawa continues. ?A lot of couples first got together here. Some who lived to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary have organized it here. All of them shed a tear of nostalgia and recall their youth and the best years of the Stylowa Restaurant.?
Now, though there are no longer crystal chandeliers or uniformed personnel, the manager is doing his best to return Stylowa to its past glory. Dances are held every weekend, but, unfortunately only until 23:00. The neighbors above the restaurant will not consent for the music to play longer. From time to time, customers sing to the accompaniment of live piano or the music of a folk band. The menu is mainly Polish cuisine. These days the specialties are ?pieogi? (stuffed dumplings) and herring. And of course Polish vodka.