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Maaza 29 Listed Among Northern Virginia’s 50 Best Restaurants

Maaza 29 is located at --

Maaza 29 is located at 14630 Lee Highway (Route 29) in Gainesville.

While Gainesville has spent the past celebrating the opening of various Promenade restaurants, one hidden gem of a restaurant has quietly gone unnoticed.

That is until now.

In their November issue, Northern Virginia Magazine named Maaza 29, the Modern Ethiopian Restaurant, one of its 50 Best Restaurants in Northern Virginia for 2014. Not only was Maaza 29 heralded by the lifestyle publication as a top restaurant in the region, it was the only Prince William restaurant to make the list!

Tucked quietly away in Gainesville Square Shopping Center on Route 29, Maaza 29 started with a vision. Restaurant owner Emanuel Reta wanted to bring the food of his childhood to Northern Virginia. Being of Ethiopian-Italian heritage, that is what he serves.

Reta said he did not find out that Maaza 29 made the list of the Best 50 Restaurants until his wife picked up the magazine last week. He was initially surprised, saying he thought of his restaurant as small, local and somewhat casual, so it was an honor to see that it could compete with some of the area’s best restaurants.

Braised Short Ribs at Maaza 29.

Braised Short Ribs at Maaza 29.

“For them to actually list us, I’m honored. This is possible because of a lot of things falling into place,” Reta said. “It feels like a vindication, that you’re doing something right.”

Reta believes the accolade is the result of going the extra mile, “We’re not run of the mill. We actually strive for quality. To me, that is the biggest thing,” he said.

One way in which he provides quality food to his customers is choosing to use farm-fresh locally sourced ingredients like the best-rated D.C. restaurants do. Only for Reta, getting farm fresh food is as easy as driving a few miles west into Catharpin or east into Nokesville.

He also credits the attention that went into planning a menu that was Ethiopian inspired, yet caters to the American palate. He explained how he created the recipe for braised short ribs, which cook for 6 to 8 hours to become tender.

Polpetti as served as Maaza 29.

Polpetti as served at Maaza 29.

“My chef and I got together and said ‘let’s do something with Ethiopian spices, but something American.’”

Lastly, he made sure to include Italian dishes that have become an integral part of the Ethiopian cuisine since the nation was once occupied by the Italians.

This fusion cuisine earned Maaza 29 the most praise from NVM, with writer/food critic Stefanie Gans asking “Could the best lasagna I’ve ever had come from an Ethiopian restaurant?”

Besides being one of the few Ethiopian restaurants in the region, and the only in the Prince William County, Maaza 29 also offers an excellent choice of beer.

Beers on tap are Ranger IPA, Southern Tier Pumpkin Ale, Vienna Lager Devil Backbone, Kings Mountain Ale, Scottish American Ale from Heritage Brewery in Manassas and Wild Cat IPA from Old Busthead Brewery on Vint Hill Road in Warrenton.

Maaza 29 has an extensive selection of wines as well as beer.

Maaza 29 has an extensive selection of wines as well as beer.

Maaza also carries more diverse offerings in bottles behind the bar.

Reta said it is important to him to carry local brews.

“Number one, it’s fresh. Number two, you are helping the local community, the local people,” he said.

For desserts, Maaza offers a taste of far-off places, such as gelato imported from Italy.

Many people realize what an achievement it is to make the list of top restaurants in Northern Virginia Magazine. It is one of the few area publications that utilizes a food critic to compile its best of list. And traditionally, very few Prince William restaurants make the list.

A quick scan of the list reveals an abundance of Arlington, Fairfax and Falls Church restaurants. Maaza 29 stands alone as the only representative of Prince William County.

Reta thinks this is an accomplishment for the Gainesville and western Prince William community as well.

“I think it’s a big deal for not just as a restaurant, but as a community,” he said.

He hopes the community will support Maaza 29.

As Gans notes in her article, “Living in Northern Virginia, traffic becomes the vehicle through which you see the world. How far are you willing to drive for dinner?”

Now western Prince William residents do not have to travel far to sample one of the best cuisines the region has to offer.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Bristow Biz, Thought for Food

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