Cosmo’s Deli getting more room to grow

Christina Balazs has big plans for her deli’s new digs.

“First thing I’m going to do is cut open a 50-pound sack of flour and dump it on the floor,” Balazs said, laughing. “Then we’re all going to lie down and make flour angels in it — just because we can.”

If she sounds a bit crazy, you’ll have to forgive her. She’s just a bit loopy at the idea of having so much space to move around in.

Like a cook who’s been feeding an army with a one-burner stove, for the past few years Balazs and her business partner Shelly Lewis have been feeding supermarket crowds out of a closet — literally.

“This was originally storage space for Starbuck’s (next door),” said Balazs, pausing only briefly to talk while keeping a close eye on simmering food, her petite frame moving easily in the space behind the counter that she might call “cozy,” but most would call “cramped.”

There’s not much more room in front of the counter, either, as the dining room can only house a few small tables, forcing all but a handful of the lunch rush to take their sandwiches to go.

Of course, for any business, having too little space is much better than having too little customers, which is certainly what could have happened when Balazs and Lewis decided to open an “authentic Italian delicatessen” in South Kitsap.

“We had no idea what would happen,” Balazs remembered. “We just unlocked the door and hoped people would come.”

They didn’t have to hope for long. “In four days, we knew we would need a bigger place,” she laughed.

Apparently, there were a lot of other locals who shared the women’s frustration with having to drive to Seattle to get many of the things they liked to eat, a frustration that eventually spurred them to open the deli.

“The real story is, Shelly was driving around all day looking for pate to put in a gift basket and couldn’t find it,” Balazs said, explaining that while on most weekdays the deli is focused on serving lunches and other meals, the weekends are full of customers wanting to stock up on gourmet meats and cheeses.

At least once a day, Balazs said, a customer exclaims with delight at finding something there. “They’ll say, ‘You have pancetta?’”

This week, the deli will be able to offer its customers an even wider selection of treats “if the planets align” as Balazs hopes, and it can move to its spacious new building across the street.

Modeled after a Tuscan home, it features not only a distinctive, colorful outside, but on the inside has room for about 60 people to dine — nearly tripling the available seating.

“A lot of people order their food to go, out of necessity,” Balazs said. “I think a lot of people will sit and eat now, once we’re open.”

There will also be separate entrances for the deli and dining room, so people wanting to sit and enjoy their meals can come in the front door, while those wanting to grab and dash can come into the deli in the back.

Perhaps most customers will be happiest, however, about the new parking lot, Balazs said.

“We get complaints all the time, that there isn’t enough parking, and our customers don’t have access to us,” she said, explaining that overall, she hoped the new building will retain the old deli’s charm. “It will still be cozy, but a lot bigger.”

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