Cafe, the mythical saloon from the 1942 film "Casablanca"
has finally been transformed from celluloid to
wood, glass and plaster thanks to the imagination
and determination of an American woman enamoured
of Morocco, Kathy Kriger.
Set in an old courtyard-style mansion built against
the walls of the Old Medina of Casablanca, the
restaurant - piano bar is filled with architectural
and decorative details reminiscent of the film:
curved arches, a sculpted bar, balconies, balustrades
as well as dramatic beaded and stenciled brass
lighting and plants that cast luminous shadows
on white walls. Details have been added that go
beyond the film set in terms of ambience and comfort
- four fireplaces, banquettes and an intimate
private dining with view of the fishing port provide
the background setting for an international menu
specializing in Casablanca's fresh fish, vegetables
and fruit. Issam, a pianist from Rabat, provides
the soundtrack to the sophisticated elegant surroundings.
Guests steeped in the elegant atmosphere come
to feel as though they are in the film, and each
evening a new chapter unfolds in the lives of
the characters who are part of today's Rick's
to Casablanca and live the dream
have lived in Morocco since 1998, serving as the
commercial counselor for the U.S. Embassy. In the
aftermath of 9/11, I decided to leave the government,
stay in Morocco and do something that demonstrated
true American values. Developing a Rick's Café in
Casablanca seemed like a perfect way to do this.
As I sent e-mails to friends around the world telling
them about my plans, their excitement and enthusiasm
gave me an idea. I needed to bring in investors,
and what better way than "rounding up the usual
suspects." So I designed a flyer that incorporated
lines from the film ("Of all the gin joints in all
the towns in all the world, I'd like you to buy
into mine") and received an overwhelming response.
I created a company called The Usual Suspects, and
suddenly money from all over the world was being
transferred to "The Usual Suspects" in Morocco!
When I was planning it I described Rick's Café as
more than a restaurant and bar, but a tourism theme
project. It captured my passion for architectural
preservation, decoration, food, music and entertaining
- and got built because of my perserverance and
optimism. The development took two years - lots
of laughter, lots of tears, and opened on March
1, 2004 to rave reviews. Rick's Cafe was already
an institution thanks to the immortal film "Casablanca",
and the spirit of Rick's has some of the mythical
quality of the movie. Whereas gambling, black marketeering
and occasional gunfire were central to the Hollywood
Rick's, Casablanca's first Rick's Café has played
upon other characteristics of the famous gin joint.
And we've collected a teriffic cast of characters,
some of whom seem to have been destined to be here.
I'd like you to meet …
Chabaa, pianist extraordinaire, designer of
our website and master of all things keyboard.
When a friend called with his name and number
I said, "Issam (pronounced eye-sam)? Well
I hope he can play the piano as that name
is quite a coincidence." Of course he could,
and he does…the old songs, French chansons,
Spanish ballads and of course "As Time Goes
By" again and again and…
Bluett lives in Los Angeles and we brought
Lennie to entertain for a month just after
Rick's opened. Lennie's mother, May, was Humphrey
Bogart's cook and Lennie, then 21, tried out
for the part of Sam back in 1941. With powder
in his hair, he gave it his best effort but
he was just too young…and too tall at 6'5".
We like to say after all these years he's
getting his second chance.