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Piassa provides a taste of Ethiopian Culture

Business Clarkston DeKalb County Food Scottdale

Piassa provides a taste of Ethiopian Culture

Dagim Menbere owns Piassa in Scottdale, GA. Photo by Jaedon Mason

Scottdale, GA — Dagim Menbere was new to the restaurant business when he became the owner of Ethiopian restaurant Piassa

He was originally just another customer when the restaurant was on Clairmont Road, but he became friends with the owner. During one of their chats, he learned the owner was looking for a career change, and Menbere decided to try being a restaurateur. 

When he started in 2010, he knew little about running a business, but he knew the clientele. 

“This area is more Ethiopian, so when I opened, I wanted to create an environment more targeted at Ethiopians,” Menbere said. “…They know the culture; more people here know about Ethiopian food and like how it’s made, so this place was more by Ethiopians for Ethiopians.”

Piassa is part of a vibrant, local Ethiopian community. According to the ARC 69% of the Ethiopians that live in Atlanta live in DeKalb County. This concentration has allowed our county to host several Ethiopian cultural institutions. It offers a broader and novel cultural experience. It goes beyond just the culinary, giving diners a taste of Ethiopian culture. Menbere hopes to serve the Ethiopian community and those curious to learn more about it for many years.

Piassa is located at 3096 North Decatur Road in Scottdale near Clarkston. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day. 

Menbere describes his food as “Authentic, cultural, and traditional.” Directly behind the market, Piassa boasts an in-house butcher where they prepare cuts, particularly (but not limited to) lamb and beef, typical of Ethiopian cuisine.

The restaurant offers a broad range of classic “Piassa style” like Tim-tam Fit Fit—chopped tomato, green pepper, and a special Piassa dressing mixed with injera—and Golden Tibs—prime short ribs sautéed with onion, tomato, fresh garlic, and jalapeno.

The restaurant also offers a selection of Ethiopian wines and serves breakfast from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., including dishes like Ful (alternatively spelled Foul), which is fava beans cooked with onion, tomato, and green pepper and served with cheese and bread.

Piassa also offers a traditional coffee and Ethiopian church service for Sunday brunch. For more details on the menu, click here.

Walking up to the store, one sees a front facade in English and Amharic decorated with pictures of Piazza, with its streets and famous landmarks, as well as a large graphic emulating the sort of angular, mosaic stained-glass style of Ethiopian artist Afewerke Telke. 

The lobby is a market with a variety of Ethiopian dry goods. Shelves lined with spices, injera, and even green (unroasted) coffee. There are several couches and a large TV, where you can usually find several “seasoned” patrons watching soccer and enjoying each other’s company.  

Through the market, to the right, is the restaurant itself. As you cross the threshold, you are transported from the market to an intimate, intricately designed space like a traditional rural Ethiopian home, says Menbere. 

On the first walls, as you first walk in, there are goatskin paintings of important Ethiopian leaders like Queen Sheba, Menelik II, and Hailee Selassie. These are above portrait photographs of people representing the different tribes of Ethiopia, and across from images of Ethiopian currency and license plates.

Goat skin paintings of Ethiopian leaders above portraits of people representing Ethiopia’s different tribes. Photo by Jaedon Mason

As you go further into Piassa, frescoe-esque scenes of the Ethiopian countryside adorn the walls. Customers will see Mesobs, a classic Ethiopian hybrid basket/table/chafing dish made from dried grass and palm leaves, traditionally used for storing injera. You’ll also see hand-made imported wooden tables and chairs between the booths. 

Each booth is decorated with the Amharic alphabet and street signs of Piassa’s different sub-boroughs. The walls are lined with photos of National monuments, such as the Baths of Fasiledes, Blue Nile Falls, and the obelisks of Axum. 

Between the pictures, painted scenes, and familiar organic, geometric batik patterns are signs in Amharic and English with information on the different elements of Ethiopian culture depicted. 

Menbere said he wanted Piassa to offer not just a taste of real Ethiopian food but also a taste of the culture, pointing out an example of one painted scene that shows a rural man making injera. 

Menebre points out textiles depicting the Story of Queen Sheba in the colorful, simplistically stylized, almond-eye-d manner indicative of the “Ethiopian School” style. 

He continues the tour, guiding toward a sort of museum in the back of the restaurant. The walls are chalked full of photos of important Ethiopian figures, from artists to politicians to athletes.  

“For a long time, I’ve had a vision, even though I didn’t know how to complete it,” Menbere said. “Even though there are ups and downs, and things don’t work out, I’ve tried to continue.”

He hopes Piassa becomes a franchise, “a well-known place,” offering a taste of his culture. 

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