Africans in Boston sat down with owner, Girmay Cirsto Ziegaye of the innovative, Lucy Ethiopian Café on Mass. Ave. in Boston, to discuss the menu, the culture, and the dream that turned one man’s vision into a hidden gem on the Boston landscape.Lucy Ethiopian Café is named after the groundbreaking anthropological find of Lucy, the first human being, whose fossils were found in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia–Ziegaye’s hometown, in 1974. This subtle and interesting nod to his culture sets the tone for the food and the atmosphere in which his quest to blend the old and the new is apparent.
Ziegaye relocated from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for Boston, 17 years ago and stayed because of the community here in Boston and because of a woman, Netsanet Woldesenbet, who is now his wife and partner at the café. Although Ziegaye always knew that he wanted to own a restaurant that served up food Ethiopians, here and abroad, would be proud to call their own, he also knew that he did not want to blend in with the other traditional Ethiopian restaurants and decided to go with a mostly vegan/vegetarian menu. What emerged is a fusion of old and new, a traditional feel with a progressive mix of flavors and textures that highlight what is great about Ethiopian cuisine. What we find on the corner of Mass Ave., diagonal to the world famous Boston Symphony Hall, is a little café for twenty, which has managed to modernize-arguably with the discovery of Lucy-the oldest food experience in the world.Ziegaye, mindful that food is much more than ingredients, uses his restaurant as an opportunity to nourish the body and the mind by letting his customers explore the Ethiopian culture as well as the surrounding cultures that make up the city he has come to love so much. One way is through the bright and bold art collection on the walls of the cafe that represent local artist from different ethnic backgrounds and fit effortlessly into the earthy vibe of the restaurant. Another way is through the presentation of the food in the traditional way, a shared family style, with the option to eat with hand or utensil. Of course, if sharing food is too far from your comfort zone, you don’t have to.