Join us to learn more about the story of Adil who moved from Morocco to the USA and started two restaurants!
Adil is the owner and general manager of Casablanca and the Commons Kitchen in downtown Ithaca.
After working with different companies, he moved to Ithaca and started Casablanca as a fast-food restaurant in downtown.
Last year, he opened the first ever Moroccan Restaurant in downtown that specialize on one of the best cuisine worldwide: Moroccan cuisine.
During his talk, he will share more about his story as an immigrant to the US and how he has been able to develop two successful restaurants in the city.
There will be Food and Networking session as well, so please enjoy!
A family connection had brought Griguihi to Ithaca with hopes of buying and opening a restaurant with his brother-in-law, but he had come to the city at perhaps the most inopportune time in recent history. They took over Casablanca Pizzeria in winter, a notoriously difficult time to make money in the city due to the frigid weather, and as the weather thawed the reconstruction of the Commons be…
A family connection had brought Griguihi to Ithaca with hopes of buying and opening a restaurant with his brother-in-law, but he had come to the city at perhaps the most inopportune time in recent history. They took over Casablanca Pizzeria in winter, a notoriously difficult time to make money in the city due to the frigid weather, and as the weather thawed the reconstruction of the Commons began.
It was a toxic mix for the restaurant and his family. They survived mainly off of Griguihi’s credit cards, and were constantly on the brink of returning to New York City, where the family had made good money, Griguihi as a concierge for several businesses for 17 years and Azzouay (co-owner) owning a restaurant. For two years, the family had virtually no income from the restaurant, and with two children still in school the situation was fairly dire. If not for an affection that he developed for the city, Griguihi and Azzouay could very well have abandoned what looked like a sinking ship at the time.
“I wasn’t getting paid because of the construction, so we really went through some really hard times,” he said. “I didn’t know that the Commons were gonna be under construction, but after the first year I started loving it. I love the people here the most.”
Finally, once customers began returning to the Commons, Casablanca slowly emerged from its financial troubles. Several years later, Griguihi has managed to navigate the dangers that can befall Commons businesses, and with Commons Kitchen he and Azzouay hope to ride that momentum and separate themselves not only from the established Commons fare, but also Griguihi’s other business Casablanca, located directly across the downtown pedestrian destination. While Griguihi still owns and operates Casablanca with his brother-in-law, Commons Kitchen is primarily his wife’s venture. The site was previously occupied by Due Amici Ristorante before it closed in February.
Even after opening Casablanca, the family always aimed to start a Moroccan-themed restaurant. Both Griguihi and Azzouay are originally from the North African country, having immigrated to the United States in 1998. Azzouay has honed her cooking skills starting in her early teens, and she owned her own Mediterranean restaurant in Brooklyn before coming to Ithaca with her husband.
The goal with the new restaurant is to give Ithacans a wider variety of casual dining, something to break the monotony of normal fast food like burgers and pizza. At first glance, Commons Kitchen could seem to be similar to its location’s predecessor, with pizza lining the counter’s front glass display for its first few weeks in business. But recently the pizza has given way to the conical cooking vessels called tagines, a mainstay of Moroccan culture.