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Café Caco


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Café Caco


The Portuguese Canadians of Ottawa Gatineau some times you want to go where everybody knows their name. Just like in the lyrics of the 80’s and 90’s TV show “Cheers,” it is a reality to many ethnicities in Canada. Missing home, many emigrant communities find their patriots in business establishments of all sorts. For the Portuguese Community of Ottawa Gatineau, one of those places is the CAFÉ CACO on Montreal Rd.


Café Caco was established in March 1984 by Mr. Emilio Goncalves and has been operated, to present, with conviction and pride to be Portuguese in Canada. At the time of opening Emilio wanted to name the Café in a way that it would include the two major groups of Portuguese emigration, those of the Acores and those of the Continent. And if you get to know Emilio you will understand his good will and intentions to always include everyone. So, to get back to the name story, Emilio thought of Club Azorean Continental of Ottawa; that would spell C.A.C.O., but he was too shy to propose such name to his faithful patrons. Then comes a second idea that reinforced the first one: two friends told him, Antonio Xavier and Orlando Lobo (may God have his wonderful soul), to call it Clube Atletico Campo de Ourique. After some reflection Emilio realised it spelled the same thing, C.A.C.O. so he adopted it.


Café Caco provides a place of encounter for Portuguese Canadians and a place of heritage and culture. For those who feel far from home, through the simple Portuguese café style interaction, it keeps a culture alive and a warm heart. Through the passion for soccer and the now international Portuguese TV with various channels, Café Caco offers, what I would call, a social service to the community worth looking into and expanding.  Games such as “sueca” or “dominos” to pool with Portuguese rules are only some of the ways to get people to do things together and share a feeling of partnership, such as the cultural ones they shared before emigrating. The screen offers sound and images of fado, news (European style where the truth comes out first), politics and sports. Oh yes, how could I forget the popular “novelas” (soaps) that keeps everyone on a schedule.


Now, the word “caco” in Portuguese can mean more than one thing: clay, piece of clay, piece of a broken pot, scalp, and more. What I find amusing is the mosaïque that the word has in reference to the actual Café Caco clientele. It’s as if the name reflects the truth of our Portuguese community. We are made of broken pieces because we come from many different regions of Portugal. Each of these regions, whether on the Continent North or Lisbon Area, or any of the beautiful islands of the Acores, all have unique cultural traits that are of value to all of us and its clay of solidarity here in Canada tend to come together into a new pot made out of all these small “cacos” and compose the most beautiful colourful community that makes our families happy.


Today Café Caco remains a very popular place for Portuguese Canadians from Ottawa Gatineau, and also for passing by Portuguese from Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and even Vancouver. It is renowned across Canada and the world. With various renovations throughout the years, it maintains its original character of a café sports bar. Soccer is the main course although you can order “petiscos” at any time of the day. The Portuguese get together at Café Caco year-round to watch there national league. If you come in on a game day, watch out for the discussions involving the Benfica or Porto or Sporting, the three major teams of Portugal, but don’t worry too much, the customers are not fighting, it’s just soccer talk, the best live animation for a Portuguese. But the most popular of all is the World Cup, Euro Cup, African Cup and Copa America. If you plan to come assist one of these Cup finals you better come 2 hours before to get a table.


Finaly I would like to give a word to the proprietor Emilio Goncalves. Everyone knows this business of keeping a door open because you are proud of your culture is a hard business, so I believe some sort of reward should come your way. However, it should not be given just because you have pride in keeping an ethnic business open. All the other groups in Canada do the same and it is a pride as well as an obligation. But to provide a place of social interaction to a community in need is worth praise.