Portugal comes to Noblesville: A European cafe takes its place right in the square of downtown Noblesville


Breanna Helms and Ren Hrlic

There is Portuguese food and there is Italian food. What would happen if you combined the two cultures and sold them at a cafe? In Noblesville, you would get the Bica Cafe. The cafe opened on October 2nd of 2020. The owner, Maria (last name withheld by request), and her husband decided to open a store that would combine the two cultural foods of Portugal and Italy.

Maria was raised in a restaurant that her grandfather opened in 1972. The restaurant is still in business today in Portugal; her mother now owns it. In the 60’s, when her mother was just 9 years old, her family migrated to America leading to Maria’s dual U.S and Portugese citizenship. It was this diverse background that she says was the inspiration to open a cafe in Indiana.

“My husband has been in food for over 40 years. He’s been a chef for 30-some-odd years, so it just seemed
natural,” Maria said.

“Looking around here there is no Portuguese food in the state of Indiana. We are it,” she said.

With friends in Indiana who had never tasted anything like the meals that Maria and her husband had made, she discovered her ambition of opening a cafe and the plan was, in Maria’s words, “let’s give it a shot and see what happens.”

When you enter the Bica Cafe, photos surround the walls snapped by Maria and her family of Portugal.

“If you take a look around the cafe, all of the photos that I or my family have taken in Portugal.”

She makes note of a specific picture that she took of a city inside of a castle called Castelo de São Jorge.

“It’s a thriving city. People live there and they work there. There’s a photo of my grandfather and his sister, next to, no joke, a donkey driven cart,” Maria said. These photos express the difference in the modern and traditional worlds within Portugal. One difference between the ambience of America and Portugal, is the age of the buildings.

“You’re going to see incredible architecture that’s influenced by so many different people.” Maria said.

One NHS student, Megan Martin, visited the shop with her br0ther where they bought muffins and cofee.

“The cafe was visually appealing and homely”, Martin said.

When asked about the Bica cafe and their name, Maria explains that it wasn’t easy to come up with the name for their place.

“It wasn’t easy. We kind of tossed around some ideas and we really wanted to focus around the pastries because pastries are really big in Portugal and they have a lot of cafes in Portugal.” So Maria and her husband, Mark, tossed around ideas until they thought of how Maria’s family’s Portuguese dialects came into play. The Portuguese word “bica” was introduced, which led to Maria doing her share of research on the word to see exactly what it would mean for her cafe.

“There’s an old legend that says that ‘bica’ is really an acronym that stands for “Beba isso com açúcar” which means ‘Drink this with sugar’,” Maria said.

The cafe was planned to be focused around pastries and coffee, so when the acronym was introduced, Maria thought that it seemed to be perfect for her family’s business.

“It just seemed kind of perfect, so when we named the cafe we also kind of came up with our motto,” Maria said.

Running a restaurant leads to a lot of stressful and exciting things an owner can go through. For Maria, she couldn’t choose only one of the favorites that filled her with excitement about her shop.

“I think finally actually doing it and having wanted to do it for so long. I think my answer to the excitement is the same as my stressful part. Actually doing it, given with everything that’s going on,” Maria said.

“I think it’s exciting and stressful at the same time. The other exciting part is watching other people really enjoy this stuff we’ve grown up eating,” she said. With the shop opening during the COVID pandemic, Maria believes that if her cafe can survive this, they can survive anything, and that is what keeps her hopes up for the years yet to come.

At the cafe, Anastasija Sennikova, is an aspiring business owner who works for Maria and looks up to her business experience.

“My owner is awesome. She’s very considerate and very kind and respectful. She listens,” Sennikova said.    
     One thing Sennikova enjoys about working there is the clientele and atmosphere.

“They’re always very open minded in trying new things. When I suggest something they’re more than happy to try it out. They’re also very nice, considering I work in an atmosphere where we can have rude people,” Sennikova said.

NHS student Jada Propst went to visit the cafe where she enjoyed both the ambience and the food.

“The employees are super sweet and the food is really good,” Propst said.

Maria has filled the menu with her and her husband’s favorite food items, but when it comes to Sennikova, her favorite item is the drink, black berry primosa.

“I want to run a business and open my own restaurant, and someone who’s opened a business from the ground up. Maria did. I want to learn from that,” Sennikova said.