From Ydiot America
June 29, 2002
Lika Ramati, one of the owners of Yaffa Cafe, Simone Café,
and now the newly opened Mooza, sees inspiration all around her.
The moment one walks into the restaurant one can tell that not just
anyone has decorated it. Her restaurants are decorated in a fashion
that is uniquely her own: gold candleholders, lamps with fringes,
plastic flowers, and gilt mirrors.
When I asked the barman to tell me when she comes in, he replied:
"Youll know her when she walks in."
Mooza, located on Orchard Street, in the hot area of the Lower
East Side, has an exotic decor. The walls are covered with a mixture
of red wallpaper and gold tiger print. Lampshades with fringes hang
from the ceiling and angelic statues are dispersed throughout the
café. The mosaic floors lead you to a huge outdoor dining
area. In its center lies a flowing mermaid fountain.
Suddenly, the barman calls out: "Hey Lika!" Into the
café walks an understatedly elegant looking lady, in contrast
with the rather loud surroundings. She is wearing a black suit,
carrying a black bag, and wearing dark sunglasses. Her hair is jet
black. She is Lika Ramati, co-owner of Yaffa Café and Simone
Café in the East Village. And now Mooza. She co-owns these
three cafés with her husband Amir. The flamboyant decoration
unites all three locations. On the walls hang her photographic interpretations
of modern day muses and self-portraits. She takes a seat under one
of her portraits and lights a cigarette. When asked about her clothing
she replies: "Black is the uniform of New York". The way
she decorated Mooza, she explains, is "not a coincidence, everything
in the café, including its name, was picked very carefully
and behind it are very clear ideas. We named the place Mooza after
the nine muses that are in charge of the arts. All of them were
women, goddesses from Greek mythology, who offered inspiration in
all the different creative arts." The whole story is written
on the back of the menu. Pictures of these muses line the walls.
"They create a feminine energy," which is important to
Lika for a rather personal reason, "
emanates from me. We need more feminine energy in the world, its
missing. The whole world is changing, yet missing feminine energy."
All the ladies in pictures have dark hair?
"I think that artists try to create themselves in their work."
When Lika was ten years old, she came to Israel from Lithuania.
She settled in the Kiron, a town in the heart of Israel. Fifteen
years ago, she moved to New York to marry her husband Amir (who
she met in Israel) and has been living here ever since then. They
have two daughters aged 11 and 13. Amir has been the owner of Yaffa
Café since it opened 20 years ago. When they got married,
Lika decided she wanted to redecorate the whole place. She and her
family live above the Simone Café.
Mooza was opened a year ago in the Lower East Side in a neighborhood
in the throws of a transformation into a place full of life, music
entertainment and art coming out "like mushrooms after a rain."
The food served there is southern European style.
What about its kitschy décor?
"Yes, its a kitschy and pop look with some humor. Kitsch
is usually negativebut here the kitsch has harmony and everything
works together nicely. My decoration is instinctive, not planned.
If you collect what you like, in the end, everything comes together
nicely. [Theres] no such thing as not mixing lines with dots."
Where do you get your inspiration?
"I loved the old hotels in Europe, I have a strong connection
to Rome, and I am inspired by Andy Warhol, so I guess it is a combination
of different things."
Lika just came back from a short visit in Israel. She has no desire
to open any cafés in Israel. "Because of the situation,
I dont think Israelis feel like going to cafés,"
But the situation in New York is not so normal?
"But it is still not like in Israel," she replies. "This
is New York, and people do not eat at home. You cannot predict anything.
The situation in the whole world is not bright right now, is it?
It affects peoples psychology. But if there is a quiet period,
people will return to a stable situation."
Her attraction and love of New York, she explains, is simple. "I
love New York because it is place where I have the opportunity to
Couldnt you express yourself in Israel?
"Its not that I couldnt express myself in Israel,
but [my life] came out this way. In New York, there is room for
different things. Here one can be more courageous in a design sense.
. . . There are so many places, and people look for something different
and unique. There is a welcoming and friendly environment for this
creativity. And this is what I personally like. I like to walk into
a place and feel that I walk into a different world, and somehow
it disconnects me from my life."
Theres no Israeli character to your places?
"The places are for everybody, not just for Israelis. Since
we are in New York, many Israelis come to my places, even without
an Israeli character. [My restaurants] have the character of the
neighborhoods theyre in."
How do you match a place to the needs of the neighborhood?
"I actually live in the East Village neighborhood, so this
is part of my internal feeling. I feel I know the people in the
neighborhood because this is the neighborhood I always lived in
and I love. I love the diversity that downtown New York has."
So youre not moving uptown?
"Definitely not! Im more of a downtown character. Its
more comfortable to have a mixture of everything, not a neighborhood
of one kind of people. Whats beautiful here is that the art
is everywhere, and you see it all the time. When I see these special
people, it gives me inspiration."
Translated from Hebrew By Michael Shoretz.
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