Dua Kafe is a restaurant that almost never existed.
“This was his idea,” chef Aida Demce said, pointing to her husband Bobian. “At first, I refused. I was too scared.”
She wondered how they could sustain a new restaurant in the big city.
“Since she’s a great cook and a great chef, I’m like, ‘Why don’t we do this?” Bobian said.
Finally, Aida was convinced. The couple opened Dua Kafe, a cozy bistro in the East Village of Manhattan.
“‘Dua’ means love in Albanian,” Bobian said.
New York City is home to few restaurants that are distinctly Albanian. Bobian was born in northern Albania, and Aida is from the south. The Demces hope to prove to New York City how delicious Albanian food can be.
“It’s a Mediterranean cuisine, so it’s involved with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, mountain herbs,” Bobian said.
On the menu are Albanian classics, such as byrek, flaky pastry dough stuffed with spinach, cheese, or meat.
In tavë kosi, chunks of lamb are baked with yogurt sauce in a claypot.
In speca me maze, charred bell peppers are topped with a creamy cornmeal-based sauce.
At Dua Kafe, Albanian pop music plays, and framed photos of Albanian celebrities line the walls. A homey, welcoming atmosphere is a top priority.
“Albanians are well known for hospitality. When we get together to celebrate, Albanians throw beautiful, beautiful parties,” she said. “We want to remind [Albanians] of the flavor of back home.”
Although she nearly rejected her husband’s restaurant proposal, Aida now finds fulfillment in the kitchen.
“When the waiter brings the plate [back] empty, it’s the best feeling that you can have,” she said.
520 East 14th Street
New York, NY 10009