A Love Letter to Siba


by Lidia Paladini, United World College Maastricht Alumnus
28th July, 2018


The first time I ever stepped into the little and shabby-looking bistro on Frankenstraat, the room was dimly lit. The image of the sparsely furnished interior accompanied by the sound of Dutch advertisements coming out of the small TV, mounted in one of the top corners, barely looked welcoming. It was my growling stomach, and the warm smile and genuine spark of kindness in the eyes of the old man standing at the counter that lured me in, and created what should be the beginning of a long journey of sustainable investments in local economy and slow consumption of fast food.
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The first time the taste of Siba made contact with my taste buds, the overwhelming flavour of oily pizza and burning hot fries blew every expectation I didn’t have out of the little window.
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Today, after two years of eating Siba’s comfort food, it seems hard for me to imagine to live without this little refuge on the side of the street – not only because of the food, but because of the comfort it has provided me with. Every time I now step into the small restaurant, my heart warms up a little and a welcoming feeling of home overwhelms me. 

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Siba, for me, is much more than just another bistro at the side of the street. It is a source of happiness for both my heart and stomach. It turns into a refuge every once in a while when campus life becomes too overwhelming, radiating both the feeling of home and the all too familiar scent of pizza margherita. It is, however, a refuge not just for the customers, but also for the owner, quite literally – a former employee of the Iranian government who fled the country due to the Iranian revolution back in 1978.
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It is a crossroad that represents the diverse and culturally rich character of the surrounding neighbourhood, bringing together people from a multitude of different cultures and backgrounds – religious or atheist, youngsters or elderly, immigrants and locals, students and those who’ve long given up on the journey of learning, all in the same place, eating the same pizza.
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Some might call Siba an acquired taste, no doubt, but it is one that is worth acquiring. Pizza elitism is certainly in the wrong place when it comes to Siba, because it is much more of an experience package than just another restaurant that caters to the needs of the average fast food consumer. This experience package can however only be accessed by those who show true dedication. It comes in form of getting to know people from outside the bubble, a free bottle of soda here and there, the incredible generosity of the owner and a place to sit for hours, having discussions about everything that matters and everything that doesn’t.
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According to the world wide web, the word Siba means “enthusiasm” or “youthfulness”, and, to me, it represents exactly that: The youthful escapism from academic obligations, a silent rebellion against mensa food, a time machine that lets us halt time in our fast-paced world, and one of the simplest forms of happiness in the midst of our over-complexified realities.
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As my two years in Maastricht come to a close, this letter is my way of thanking Siba. Not for extraordinarily outstanding food, not for grand gestures or life-changing experiences, but for being a manifestation of familiarity and simplicity – right there whenever needed most, with open doors to welcome anyone in dire need of some fast food and a break from their buzzing lives.

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