Menbe's Musings

Buona Pasqua!

In the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, we observe a Holy Lent Fast called Tsom which lasts 55 days. During Tsom, we abstain from all meat and dairy products, including eggs and eat a light meal once a day, usually consisting of lentils. After Tsom we celebrate Fasika, what we call Easter in Amharic.

When I was young, preparations for Fasika began with my brother heading to the market to buy a lamb. I was always so proud when we ended up with the biggest lamb in our neighborhood. Every time I would take the lamb to graze I would make sure to slow down as I passed Dagamawit’s house, she was my arch nemesis, and I wanted to make sure she saw my families big beautiful lamb.

In the beginning, Tsom is always exciting. I loved being able to do something that all the adults were doing, it made me feel mature. But after only ten days I was over it. I would beg my brother, Messele, for a little chicken or even just a little sweet treat and he always gave me the same answer: “No!”

The last day of Tsom was always the hardest. All the women would gather in our kitchen and start preparing our Easter feast and the men would go outside and slaughter the lamb (I made sure to stay away during that part!). I would run around gathering spices, help pluck the chickens, and sometimes I was even allowed to stir the Doro Wat (a spicy Ethiopian chicken stew). Oh, that day was torture! There was so much food and the house smelled so delicious, I couldn’t wait until the next day when I could stuff my face full of food.

Years later, I celebrated my first Easter in Italy. To my surprise, I found that my new home had many similar Easter customs to those of Ethiopia. The first was lamb. No Ethiopian Easter feast was complete without a roasted lamb and the same was true in Italy. For many Italians, Pasqua (Easter in Italian) without lamb on their table is hard to imagine. The custom of eating lamb at important religious feasts goes back thousands of years. One of my personal favorite recipes for lamb is Abbacchio alla Scottadito, which literally means “lamb that burns the fingers”.

The second similarity is Easter Bread. In Napoli, they make a Neapolitan Easter Bread call Casatiello. It’s filled with cured meats and cheese and topped with whole eggs. It was one of my favorite Easter treats. Ethiopia also has an Easter bread that’s very similar to Casatiello called Yedoro Dabo. We make Doro Wat and stir in whole hard boiled eggs, then we mix this into the dough and bake it. You end up with a savory bread that if stuffed with chicken and eggs, it’s quite delicious.

Although Italy and Ethiopia couldn’t be more different, both cultures have played an important part in who I am as an individual. I’m proud to consider myself an Italian but I always make sure to remember my Ethiopian roots. Easter is the perfect time to reflect on where we have come but also plan a course for our future. I wish you all a happy Easter and remember “a tavola non si invecchia” (at the table we never grow old).

Buona Pasqua!



Why Italians Love Prosecco

Why I always drink Prosecco before dinner
by Menbere Aklilu

March 2017

In my recent trip to Italy, I had the chance to have dinner with some old friends. I had actually worked as a maid, cleaning toilets, washing dishes and cooking for their family just after Christian was born. It was in their kitchen that I learned many of the recipes that I serve at Salute today. We spent hours at the table, reminiscing. It was there, at a little trattoria in Rome that I realized that the one thing I miss the most about living in Europe is the ritual of eating. In Rome and most of Europe, eating involves hours at the table with multi-course meals where good wine plays a supporting role to food. Here, in America, I feel we rush through meals, always too busy to slow down and enjoy life.

One of my favorite dining rituals is the aperitivo. In America, people drink martinis before dinner, but this does nothing for the palette or the digestion. In Italy we always start dinner with an aperitivo, they’re meant to stimulate the appetite and prime the senses for the meal. The aperitivo is a sort of statement, it says “I’m here to eat. I’m here to enjoy myself and my company and I’m in no hurry.” Some common aperitivos are Gin and Tonic, sweet vermouth with soda water over ice, and of course my favorite, Prosecco.

Nothing says I’m ready to enjoy a great meal with good friends than a glass of chilled Prosecco. I always taught Christian, my son, that a good Prosecco is meant to clean out the taste (both physically and mentally) of the day and prepare the palette for the evening. It marks the shift from daytime worries to an evening of friends and family. Great Prosecco is normally light, frothy, clean and airy, and often times has a touch of sweetness, which helps in preparing you for your meal.

Next time you sit down for dinner with your friends and family start off with a glass of Prosecco and see how the worries of the day wash away and don’t forget: a tavola non si invecchia!

–  Menbere

Salute’s Day of Giving Thanks

We invite you to get involved!

Every year on Thanksgiving Day, we serve over 1400 meals to individuals in need which includes transport from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm Salute hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for needy families and those less fortunate living in Contra Costa County. We also offer free flu shots to our guests, thus extend the benefits to our community beyond this one-day event. This is our sixth year and we are proud to continue to serve the many families including US Veterans from Contra Costa and Marine Counties that will enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at Salute.

Last year we serve over 1200 meals to individuals and needy families. In addition, Salute gave a coupon to each family good for ten sandwiches and a cup of soup throughout the Holiday season. We are proud to serve meals to 700 US Veterans from Contra Costa and Marine Counties were among the many families that had enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal at Salute.

All of us at Salute are proud to do whatever we can for our community and are overwhelmed by the enormous support and generosity from our loyal customers, neighbors, friends, families, and business associates in this effort to continue to make Salute’s Day of  Giving Thanks a yearly event and excited to see how this will grow for many years to come.

Please Contribute to Salute’s Day of Giving Thanks Event

We are able to accept your charitable donations through Richmond Community Foundation (501 c 3 Charity, FED ID# 94-3337754.) Checks should be made payable to: Richmond Community Foundation, with a memo “Salute’s Day of Giving Thanks Fund”, and sent to Salute E Vita Ristorante, 1900 Esplanade Drive, Richmond, CA, 94804.

If you prefer to donate using your credit card, please go to the following link, and specify “Salute’s Day of Giving Thanks Fund” in the Tribute section.
Or, you can call us at (510) 215-0803

If you would like to donate gift bag items, or if you would like to become a volunteer, please contact us at
And finally, we want to thank all of our volunteers who have helped in the past. We couldn’t have done it without you! Please accept our utmost appreciation for your generous and heartfelt contribution.

Thanksgiving Day Celebration After 4:oo pm on

We are taking Reservations Early this year. Simplify your Thanksgiving Celebration & break bread with family and friends after 4:00 pm.

November 26, 2015 Thanksgiving

Mother’s Day

In 2015, Twenty-four low-income young mothers from Richmond will be treated to a Mother’s Day brunch on Saturday hosted by Salute E Vita Ristorante in Marina Bay. The brunch, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., is an annual event hosted by Salute’s owner Menbere Aklilu, who herself was a homeless single mother before a kindhearted person assisted her.

“I understand the struggles of being a single mother and this Mother’s Day I want to give these woman the wonderful gift of being strong in the spirit of Motherhood.” -Menbere Aklilu

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When Menbere Aklilu sees the guests at her Thanksgiving dinner enjoying the warmth of the fireplace, or the stunning views of San Francisco from the expansive windows of her restaurant, Salute e Vite Ristorante, on the Richmond Marina waterfront, she thinks, “Today I am more blessed.”