Boyle McCauley News

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“Afro-Italian” Hot Spot

Ethiopian fare at Massawa. John Hooper

Massawa Cafe Bistro
Italian/Ethiopian
10153 – 97 Street
(587) 529-8611

Across 97 Street from Canada Place, Massawa Cafe Bistro offers a diverse and varied menu. The look of the place is definitely that of a coffee shop: order-at-the-counter, free wifi, small tables, and even a sofa corner for conversation. Of course, one can get all the varieties of espresso one would expect. In addition, bottled soft drinks, juices, and a full bar (with happy hour) is available. But Massawa is more than a coffee shop – much more! “Afro-Italian” was the description used by one of our kind hosts and it begins to tell how eclectic this delightful place is.

Hot breakfast is available, as well as luncheon fare such as salads (some fresh, some pre-made), a choice of hot soups, and a wide range of panini and sandwiches. In addition, there are some more filling entrées: Italian pasta or pizza and Ethiopian/Eritrean cuisine. My co-diner and I opted for the latter, ordering tibis derho chicken and a vegetarian plate (with a side of beef stew, since we aren’t really vegetarian). While we waited, we could look outside through the floor-to-ceiling windows and enjoy the open atmosphere. The day was unfortunately too chilly for the patio or we certainly would have taken advantage of that. The clientele was definitely the business crowd from downtown. It was lunchtime, after all.

Our meals were incredible: huge plates covered with injera (Ethiopian bread), lots of chicken stew, big portions of vegetables, and an ample tasting of the beef stew, plus lettuce and tomato salad! And for $15 each (the most expensive things on the menu), quite reasonable as well. Breakfast, salads, sandwiches, pastas, and small pizzas were less than half that price.

The spicy chicken was steaming hot, with peppers, onions, and tomato, with enough spice to give it a good little punch. The vegetables included two types of lentils, “spiced to perfection” as the menu promised, plus sautéed spinach and kale that were hot, yet maintaining their texture. The beef in the stew was tender, covered in a not-to-spicy tomato sauce. The injera was excellent and served well to pick up the food, but the dishes were thoughtfully served with a fork as well. Had we had the time, and room in our stomachs, we would have indulged in dessert from the gelato cooler.

All-in-all, it was a delicious, authentic meal worthy of having again, and I’d certainly like to try other things on the menu. Each weekday there is an special Italian entrée that looks wonderful.

Massawa is open weekdays from 8 to 8 (10 to 7 on Saturdays and closed on Sundays), so breakfast can’t be too early, nor dinner too late. Nevertheless, the food there is worth coming for any time!

John lives in Boyle Street.

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