When Lyons resident Don Brisko learned commercial space was opening up at East and Forest avenues in downtown Riverside, he knew the time was right to pursue a lifelong dream of opening up an eatery of his own.

On June 23, Brisko and his family opened Erika’s Deli, a small Bohemian delicatessen located in the former home of Fiore Gourmet Bakery at 25 Forest Ave.

Even though the restaurant specializes in eastern European-style foods, Erika’s Deli has a growing menu of foods including soup, paninis, kolacky and dumplings all homemade on site.

“I didn’t want someone to walk in here and feel uncomfortable because they don’t know what to eat,” Brisko said. “I wanted to introduce new stuff but have familiar stuff, too.”

While Erika’s Deli is the first restaurant for Brisko, he says Riverside’s hometown feel and neighborly camaraderie is what sold him on using the town for his business’ location.

“The historical look of Riverside kind of goes well with our theme as well,” Brisko said.

Brisko says opening the restaurant went pretty fast, moving from concept to grand opening in a matter of weeks.

“I heard Fiore was for sale, so we bought it within a month and opened within three weeks,” he said. “We were planning on doing this for a while, but we were just waiting for a good opportunity to come.”

Brisko comes to Riverside with experience as a cook at Brookfield Zoo and menu ideas inspired by his family, including from his mother, Erika, after whom he named the business. Brisko says his mother had experience cooking abroad and introduced him to unique dishes. 

“Erika has had 20-plus years in this type of thing in Ireland, Slovakia and America,” Brisko said. 

Brisko says he hit upon the concept of a Bohemian deli because there were no places in the area that featured convenient European take-out cuisine that was reasonably priced.

“We just thought it would be a good idea to have homemade takeout stuff for a good price,” he said. “If people don’t feel like eating out or cooking, they can still get a good homemade meal.”

Some of the unique items available on Brisko’s menu include the Irish dish Chicken Ashley, European cabbage noodles, potato and paprika noodles and pork goulash with bread dumpling. 

“The recipes are pretty special,” he said. “You’re not going to find good tasting food like this just anywhere, especially for the price.”

To advertise the deli, Brisko has started a Facebook page and is selling some of his menu items at the Riverside Farmers Market, which is right outside the deli’s front door, every Wednesday. He is also planning on developing a catering menu and producing foods to be sold wholesale at local grocery stores, including Riverside Foods. 

Brisko also hopes patrons enjoy the restaurant’s many ready-to-take home dinners he sells. Each dinner is made fresh daily and comes with meat, a side and a vegetable for $9.

So far, Brisko said the community has been welcoming to him and seems to enjoy his niche cuisine.

“I have great responses,” he said. “Everybody is saying it’s super convenient and super affordable and a great idea for the neighborhood, so I hope people come back.”

Brisko says he enjoys interacting with locals and introducing them to his favorite foods.

“Meeting people and feeding people is my favorite,” he added.

Erika’s Deli is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Mondays.