A quick transition from Chianti to kitfo
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
“Cook what you know” is a good rule for restaurateurs, which is why Tsiona Bellete opened Pasta Pronto in Rockville in July. “I grew up eating pasta,” says the native of Addis Ababa. Even so, her business closed in September.
Reluctant to call it quits, Bellete deployed a backup plan: an Ethiopian restaurant. She says that while the food of her homeland couldn’t command Italian menu prices, it didn’t take a Google search to tell her Rockville was short on doro wat and gomen.
When the lights in her restaurant went on again in October, the menu read Sheba Restaurant. Always tidy, the 50-seat interior didn’t need any more touch-ups than some fresh African paintings on its pale green walls.
Flaky lentil sambusas swiped in a fiery red dip make a solid first impression; the fried pastries shatter audibly when you bite into them. Sheba Special Tibs live up to the tease, thanks to juicy beef cubes and a blast of heat from jalapeno slices. Vegetarians are rewarded with a sampler platter that brings together bright collard greens, eggplant that picks up flavor from berbere sauce and red lentils elevated with ginger and garlic as well as celery seed and powdered mustard. Not a dull dollop in the bunch.
The only drawback to the meal may be the poky service. It shouldn’t take a lifetime to get a drink.
A few memories of Bellete’s former business remain on the menu. One of them is a strapping, cream-enriched fettuccine Bolognese that makes me wish I had made the acquaintance of Sheba’s predecessor.