Piassa might be the few places in Addis Ababa that has never failed to absolutely stun me. It has indubitably become my favourite place in the entire city by refusing to adapt to the ever changing scene of the capital.
The narrow streets are strikingly European, specifically Italian due to the simple fact that it was built by the Italians, during their brief occupation of Ethiopia. And even though independence was regained, I for one am glad to see that the structures and designs of the Italians remained.
The popular Italian phrase, “La Dolce Far Niente” which means, “the sweetness of doing nothing” comes to mind when I think of Piassa. Endless row of café’s that line the streets are a testimony to the fact that one can simply sit and be busy all day with nothingness, while sipping multiple macchiato’s. In fact my entire day there comprised of eating and drinking, however I made up for this by doing a lot of walking, which is the obvious and best way to see the place.
It is known that no visit is complete without visiting Tomoca and Enrico’s, which I am proud to say I did. The latter twice actually, however the second time was not for me, so you can stop shaking your head at me now.
Tomoca, known for its fresh and high quality coffee, arguably the best in all of Addis Ababa, is also the first coffee company. The petite coffee haven was established in 1953 and very little has changed since. The aging furniture themselves seem to hold stories of the very first brews that revolutionized the coffee scene of Addis Ababa. With no place to sit, a cup of your preferred coffee is typically taken standing while reading the newspaper or having a quick chat. However in my case it is usually a “neta yale macchiato” with a side of deep appreciation. Don’t be surprised if you come in one day to see me standing with my mouth hanging slightly opened, as I can never grow accustomed to the enduring pictures and maps that highlight the different forms of coffee across the country. Or the illustration of the deep scarlet lion that roars away any doubt one would have of the authenticity of the place.
On to the infamous Enrico’s and with that the entire population heaves a deep sigh of longing. Possibly housing the creamiest and most succulent cakes I have ever tasted in my life, Enrico’s is popular to quickly sell out their products. Occasionally as early as midday, leaving many crushed and disgruntled. Similarly to Tomoca, Enrico’s was also one of the first pioneers of delectable tastes, as it was the first patisserie in Addis Ababa. With its consistent goal of satisfying ever customers’ desires, Enrico’s has earned an unquestionable reputation. Unlike many other popular cafes and restaurants, Enrico’s is all about simplicity, plain counter tops, and plain tables, yet the real decoration comes in the form of cakes, especially their custard puffs. There really is no way to eat this other than stuffing one whole in your mouth, for my Indian readers it is very similar to having Panni Purri, but, better. Much better.
Nonetheless Piassa is more than just food, it’s the timeless buildings and walkways that tell the story of old and new and my, “Dolce Far Niente.”