Northwest DC’s beloved Zizzi’s hosts a birthday bash this weekend. Here’s who is there.

Queen Eleanor Monarch’s gambit. Helen Duff Cotteron of Ticino. Author courtesy of AveryBooks

Zizzi’s is a beloved neighborhood cafe on 11th Street near Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest DC, just about across the street from Columbia Heights. The place’s never gone soft in the face of industry disruption: Its sandwiches and soups reflect the history of Bellows-Chevy Chase as well as the vibrancy of the neighborhood. But its long-term success is at least in part built on the patronage of its loyal clientele, the people who make Zizzi their home.

Penny Gilbert Galicia is one of them. “I think it’s the neighborhood and the food,” she says. Galicia has been a regular since arriving here about twenty years ago, and she says she’s dedicated to making the best “and I think it’s because we’re all here for the same reason. We like being here.”

“I’ve experienced up and down—family, friendships, fiscal stability—there have been years I’ve been the only paid employee,” Galicia says. “But it’s the culture of this place. I never know what’s around the corner. I don’t know who’s going to get a promotion, who might be the next Jimmy Buffett.”

On special occasions, Galicia brings her toques and chefs to thank them for years of service, but this holiday weekend she’s on her own. When Galicia moved to the United States, she says, “I really felt that I came to live in a free country. But I’ve been here long enough and I’ve developed a certain level of independence that I can say to myself, ‘You know what? It doesn’t matter. I’m taking care of me.’ I don’t have to be anybody else.”

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