Ethiopian favorites at Cafe Colucci

Erin Alexander/Staff
Meat sambussas - sautéed beef, garlic, onions, red bell peppers and savory spices, wrapped in a thin pastry and deep-fried to perfection

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To say that I know anything about Ethiopian food would be an overstatement. My knowledge of food from this highly populated African country is pretty much nonexistent. But since I came to Berkeley, it’s all I seem to be hearing about. A few recommendations later, I found myself at Café Colucci, dubbed by a few publications as one of the “Best in the East Bay,” a title that luckily did not disappoint.

cafe-colucci-outside

Erin Alexander, Staff.

Located on Telegraph Avenue just south of Ashby Avenue and a short bus ride away from the heart of campus, Café Colucci is the perfect spot for a quick, tasty lunch between classes. The wooden patio tables, shaded by lush trees and fenced in by bamboo dividers, proved to be the perfect setting for a sunny, crisp September afternoon.

I was immediately greeted at the door with a friendly smile and welcome from the hostess. For a while, I stared at the menu dumbfounded— nothing seemed familiar, I had no idea what messer-wot or doro tibs were. Luckily, our waitress guided us toward the meat sambussa appetizers ($6.95) and the vegetable combo platter ($8.95 for the lunch portion).

The meat sambussas were the perfect combination of sautéed beef, garlic, onions, red bell peppers and savory spices, all wrapped in a thin pastry and deep-fried to perfection. The vegetable combo platter offered up a sample of six different vegetarian dishes, perfect for sharing. Three of them are different preparations of lentils, while the other three were a mix of collard greens with garlic, cabbage and potatoes, and my personal favorite, chickpea mash. Each dish in the combo platter is meant to be eaten using traditional Ethiopian bread, teff injera.

Teff injera and vegetable combo platter

Teff injera and vegetable combo platter. Erin Alexander, Staff.

This addictive Ethiopian staple is doughy, sponge-like and tastes a lot like sourdough. Eating with teff injera is a hands-on process. Be prepared to get your hands a little dirty scooping up the different bits of each dish. But the mess is worth it. My favorite bites were those in which I experimented with different combinations of each, especially the red lentils with chick peas.

For the more adventurous, there’s kitfo, raw beef finely minced and seasoned, or doulet, raw lamb-tripe, liver, and lean beef. I plan on saving those for my next visit. I’ll be back to Café Colucci very soon; it’s a place you absolutely have to try, especially if like me, you’ve never had the opportunity to try some delicious Ethiopian food.

Café Colucci is located at 6427 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA, 94609. Call (510) 601-7999 to make a reservation.

Contact Erin Alexander at [email protected]