Fika is the Swedish tradition of taking time each day to share and savor coffee with family and friends.
In the middle of downtown Asheville, I found the perfect little coffee shop to visit whenever I am homesick for a good, strong European espresso: Entering Old Europe Patisserie is like stepping into a typical café found in any European city. It is cozy and small, filled with house-made pastries and freshly roasted coffee. Only a few small tables and a little bar with some stools flank its warm, orange, color-washed walls: It’s an authentic fika spot, where coffee and pastries are meant to be savored at leisure.
Melinda Vetro, born and raised in Hungary, is the outgoing, bubbly owner of Old Europe. As a European, she knows firsthand the ins and outs of a continental café. After moving to the United States in 1991, Vetro and her then-husband started Old Europe hoping to share their love for Hungarian pastries with America. After almost 20 years in business, Vetro found she needed to find a way to support herself and her son on her own. So, with determination and passion, she decided to take a leap of faith and open a new café. In 2010, she sold everything, invested her life into her own business, and Old Europe was reborn, this time with Vetro going solo.
It is evident that Vetro is in love with her life. She is an amazing woman, fighter and entrepreneur who has built her own business and created her own American dream — and we are all the luckier for that. Using old recipes from Hungary, Vetro bakes homemade cakes and pastries daily. Strudels, muffins, cookies and pies fill Old Europe’s pastry counter, leaving you longing to sample a little of everything.
What seems to be most important at Old Europe is the love and energy that Vetro and her loyal employees, who have all been there since the opening in 2010, pour into their work. Old Europe is more than a coffee shop, I have discovered. “It is like a family. It is my family,” says Vetro.
You know, fika is a Swedish tradition, handed down through the years, just like the recipes for the pastries at Old Europe. We can all share in the same values of good coffee, good pastries and good company. All we need is some coffee and a pastry and a friend.
Old Europe is at 13 Broadway St. Info: oldeuropepastries.com
News while you sip
A new coffee bar is coming to the west side of town. Odd’s Café is set to open in mid-to-late spring at 800 Haywood Road. The space is currently undergoing construction and renovations. Stay tuned for more updates about the grand opening. oddscafe.com
Medea’s Espresso and Juice Bar
South Asheville is about to get a new coffee and juice bar. Medea’s Espresso and Juice Bar open near Lake Julian in March, according to it website. Medea’s will have coffee, juice, food, books, art, health care products, clothing and jewelry for sale. More information to come. espressoandjuicebar.com
Firestorm Café and Books update
Firestorm Cafe & Books in downtown Asheville will close on March 1 and move to a new location as yet to be determined. Worker-owners did say at a recent community meeting that a few sites in West Asheville are under consideration. The community-powered cafe will be missed in its downtown spot, but it will continue to bring social, political and environmental awareness to the Asheville community wherever it is. In celebration of Firestorm’s last month on Commerce Street, all books are now 10 percent off. firestorm.coop