CAFE DESTA

Ethiopian dishes, refugee aid served

2013-07-04T00:00:00Z Ethiopian dishes, refugee aid servedGerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 
  • Where: 758 S. Stone Ave.
  • Phone: 370-7000.
  • Online: cafedesta.com
  • Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
  • History: Telahoun and Brooke Molla opened Café Desta, Tucson's second Ethiopian restaurant, in 2010. Huruy Zerghi and three other Eritrean residents took over operations in March.
  • Type of cuisine: Traditional Ethiopian meat dishes, incorporating chicken, lamb and fish and vegan dish options, featuring red split lentils, chopped collard greens and cabbage and carrots. Plates are offered in individual or family style portions, in which diners share from one platter. Prices for entrees range from $6.25 to $39.95 for a sampler of all of the selections.
  • A taste of home: Meals are served with injera, a spongy bread made from teff, sorghum and wheat flour, that is used like a tortilla to scoop food up from the plate.
  • Bio: When Zerghi came on board as co-owner of the downtown Ethiopian restaurant Café Desta, he saw it as an opportunity to help others.
    Zerghi, 38, has lived in Tucson since 2002, but was born and raised in Eritrea, a small African country that was once part of Ethiopia.
    The son of farmers, Zerghi went to college in the capital city of Asmara. He earned a degree in marine biology and eventually went to work as a supervisor for the Seawater Farms Eritrea project in the coastal town of Massawa.
    Thanks to his connections through the business - one of its investors was based in Phoenix - he received a scholarship to attend the University of Arizona, where he earned his master's degree and then his doctorate in environmental science with an emphasis in environmental microbiology.
    Running a restaurant was not on Zerghi's to-do list, but he found the idea appealing when approached to take the reins from owners Telahoun and Brooke Molla.
    The Mollas were looking to sell the space. Zerghi was one of four investors who joined forces to keep it going.
    "I was the only one of my brothers that wasn't a business owner," Zerghi said. "So far, it has been very interesting. You get to know a lot of people."
    When he isn't serving traditional dishes from his homeland, Zerghi uses the café as a helpful hub for Tucson's Ethiopian and Eritrean refugee community.
    Zerghi sometimes serves as an interpreter for new arrivals to Tucson for the International Rescue Committee, and runs a support group through his church.
    "Newcomers have a lot of challenges," he said. "Now they come here to ask questions."

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