Café Colucci on the Move: Brundo Spices will soon be sharing more space with the restaurant. | East Bay Express

After 30 years on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, Cafe Colucci moves into Soul Slice’s former address on San Pablo Avenue.

Daniel Aderaw Yeshiwas, general manager of Cafe Colucci and Brundo Spice Company, said he planned to visit Soul Slice when he noticed it was no longer working. He had eaten there before and liked the space. Yeshiwas had begun the process of finding a new location and, with the help of a real estate agent, had decided that it would host several aspects of the coffee and spice company.

“We were at a crossroads as a restaurant,” Yeshiwas explained. As his aunt and other elders return home to Ethiopia to run the spice factory, Yeshiwas has been pulled in different directions by the restaurant, the spice company and a new beverage program in partnership with Blue Bottle Coffee. They were all locked up in various places. It was time to consolidate everything into one place with more square footage. From now on, they will be able to manufacture the “wet products” and the mixtures of spices in the same point of sale. “It’s a unique opportunity to have the spices around us to engage with customers as they eat them,” he said.

Yeshiwas describes Cafe Colucci as a “traditional and authentic Ethiopian restaurant”. Many dishes come from central Ethiopia, where his extended family is from. But being part of the second generation diaspora, he also uses Ethiopian spices when making eggs or avocado toast. “I love putting berbere on avocado toast, which is the cornerstone of Ethiopian cuisine,” he said. Berber is a chilli mixture made up of 13 ingredients. “It has a ton of body and flavor.”

Along with the eggs, he uses afrenje, a sweet pepper seed. “We like to highlight East African spices because they have a lot of flavor but aren’t necessarily pungent and fiery,” Yeshiwas explained. Some of the main components that enliven the kitchen are ginger, onion and garlic. “You can just add a little bit and it goes a long way,” he said.

All Telegraph Avenue dishes will still be on the menu, but they are expanding it. “We will be offering breakfast, which has slowed down during the pandemic,” he said. And the drinks menu. Right now, one of the drinks they make with Blue Bottle is an Ethiopian iced coffee. Yeshiwas said, “We use cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and also black cardamom in a mixture that we put in coffee.” They grind the spices with the coffee in a pot called jebena. “You heat the spices and boil them in there.”

On San Pablo Avenue, Café Colucci will dedicate a space specifically to spices. “We will have displays, and even a refrigerated display case with products,” Yeshiwas said. “We really want to make it an interactive experience, where you’re surrounded by spices and spice shots on the wall.” You will be able to cook the dishes you eat by looking at the recipes. They already have an impressive archive of Ethiopian recipes online at brundo.com/blogs/recipes.

“I think Ethiopian foods are trending,” Yeshiwas said. “It’s becoming more and more popular, especially in the vegan community. Much of our food is naturally vegan. In the beginning, when people sent emails asking questions about food, it wasn’t enough to post a recipe. “We hear from people in random places who have asked, ‘I see pictures and videos of your food and it looks really interesting and different. How can I prepare it?’ One of the company’s ongoing projects is educating home cooks on how dishes are traditionally eaten and how nutrition is factored into recipes.

Yeshiwa summarized the company’s vision for the move. “We are focused on continuing to serve truly delicious food and meals to the community here, to be at the forefront of spices, to introduce new ways to spice foods and to focus more on what I think is a natural evolution for us as food entrepreneurs, from a restaurant to packaged goods that really showcase Ethiopian and East African cuisine.”

Cafe Colucci, scheduled to open late summer 2022. 5849 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 510.601.7999. cafecolucci.com

Freeda S. Scott