Perhaps the original P.J. and family lived upstairs and kept their own corner shop to pay the bills. The house has lots of charm; I particularly love the hipped roof, the multiple eaves, and the recessed, angled windows on the second story.
My impression of the shop itself — unconfirmed on the briefest of pit stops during a morning jaunt through the neighborhood of Maspeth, Queens — is that ownership has changed over the years, probably more than once. Newspapers, cigarettes, candy, and soda are still on offer, but lottery tickets may now be the principal line of business. Fresh milk, juice, eggs, and bread are more readily available at newer, larger, more polished markets nearby.
P.J.'s Newspaper 57-34 61st St. (at 57th Dr.), Maspeth, Queens
Throughout the Middle East, croquettes with a crisp bulgur shell and a filling that includes minced meat and onion are called kibbeh. That name is known in Egypt, too, but my appetizer quartet went by another moniker: kobeba ($6). Perhaps the names are interchangeable, but I've bitten into enough leaden specimens to know that the croquettes themselves are not. These were exceptionally good.
Also shown below: macaroni béchamel, fresh from the oven. Natives of Alexandria, the husband-and-wife owners emigrated long ago, and over the years a number of non-traditional offerings have joined their repertoire. Perhaps some EIT reader will try the Egyptian cheesesteak; for my return visit, I've set my sights on grilled branzino.
Many Albanian cafes present a gloomy face to the outside world; though ostensibly public, their dark interiors suggest "members only." Pravue's corner location and broad windows, by contrast, offers a warm welcome. At my seat with a view, beside the counter up front, so did grosh (growsh, $7), an invigorating soup of kidney beans and smoked meat, accompanied by bread and crumbled feta. There's a dining room in back, too; it's more cloistered but still family-friendly.
On a return visit, I plan to try one of the cafe's three variations on the broad Balkan burger called a pljeskavica. Rather than the usual pita-like "bun," which on occasions can be as stiff as it is flat, these "Albanian style burgers" employ the same sesame-seeded bread that wiped my soup bowl clean. Prepared to Pravue's specifications by a local bakery, the house bread is delightfully fluffy, especially after it's been lightly toasted.
Coals to Newcastle: This corner shop's Nepalese owner learned the ways of zapiekanki in the land of his birth, thanks to a visiting tour leader from Poland. Though the sandwich is customarily open-faced, mine (large, fully loaded, $8) came with the top half of the loaf as well; a number of other customers (presumably, not the local Polish crowd) had asked "where the rest of it was," the owner told me. Ask for yours well-done to ensure that the cheese is thoroughly melted.
A menu posted inside the cafe still lists pierogi, a legacy of the previous tenant. These are no longer available, but the owner assured me that he makes a sort of Nepalese dumpling that is very similar, and that I have yet to try.
"Arancino," after the resemblance to a "little orange," is the usual name for this sort of stuffed, fried rice ball. "Piccola mela" does roll off the tongue, true, but "Italian apple" is more evocative. Mine was filled with sauteed spinach and garlic ($4). At an indoor market, a satisfying snack; nearer the deep fryer, surely even better.
Leah's Italian Apples 718-775-7096 At the periodic Ridgewood Market, Gottscheer Hall, 657 Fairview Ave. (Gates Ave.-Linden St.), Ridgewood, Queens www.RidgewoodMarket.com