Joco Diversions

At Cozy’s Cafe, the diverse menu is a labor of love for owner

Updated: 2013-11-19T21:10:56Z

By SARAH GISH

The Kansas City Star

Kozeta Kreka hasn’t taken a day off in nearly five years.

The owner of Cozy’s Cafe in Overland Park arrives at her restaurant at 5 a.m. every day. Kreka, whose nickname is Cozy, makes everything on the European and American menu herself — from pumpkin pancakes to lasagna, meatloaf and creme brulee.

But making food from scratch every day doesn’t feel like work to Kreka, who grew up in Albania and started cooking at age 5. “When you love what you do,” Kreka says, “it makes a big difference.”

At Cozy’s Cafe, fresh flowers adorn every table in the neat and clean dining room, which is decorated with paintings of Venice canals. Cappuccinos, served in cups with saucers, arrive with starburst patterns etched into their foam. Service is friendly and fast — and the food offerings are diverse.

Kreka, who owned a restaurant and beer garden in Albania before moving to the United States 15 years ago, knows her way around many cuisines. Cozy’s Cafe serves American favorites such as meatloaf and pork chops alongside Italian lasagna, Greek gyros and her great-grandmother’s recipe for baklava.

Take one flaky bite of the sweet layered pastry, made with honey and chopped walnuts, and you’ll see why the recipe was handed down like an heirloom through three generations of Kreka’s family. Cozy Cafe’s baklava is so popular that Kreka sells it by the sheet for parties and weddings. She’s been known to make 200 servings at a time.

Kreka’s creme brulee also gets rave reviews from customers. Kreka caramelizes the crunchy sugar topping just before serving and garnishes the creme brulee with fresh berries. You have to break the golden shell to get to the rich creamy custard filling, which is flavored with scrapings from real vanilla beans.

If you’re craving comfort food and indulgent sweets, Cozy’s Cafe is worthy of your short list. But this casual cafe’s good for health-conscious eaters, too. For breakfast, customers looking for something light can order egg-white omelettes or organic oatmeal. The lunch sandwiches are served on organic Farm to Market bread and with a light and fresh side salad. And Kreka says she’s happy to accomodate dieting or gluten-free diners by adjusting any dish on the menu.

On a recent morning, Kreka flipped through photos of her food and her customers on an iPad. She smiled when she came across a photo of a family that’s been coming to Cozy’s every Sunday since the cafe opened nearly five years ago.

“I love taking care of people,” Kreka says. “I put my heart and my soul into this.”

Enterprise reporter Sarah Gish writes about Johnson County restaurants every first and third week of the month. Contact her via email at sgish@kcstar.com or tweet @sarah_gish.

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