Molotov Cafe Evokes Aura of `Casablanca'

You walk into the darkened room filled with black tables, flickering candles and strong coffee. A friend waves suggestively through the wispy smoke. You're not sure, but that man in the fedora hat slouched in the far corner could be Humphrey Bogart.

This is not a scene from "Casablanca."

It is the new Molotov Cafe in Adams House, open from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and filled with sumptuous desserts and relaxed Adams residents. It is located on Plympton St. between D and E entries, across from the dinning hall.

The cafe takes its name from its location, a room is Adams House called Explosives B.

"This cafe is one of the best things that has happened to Adams House," says Scarlet J. Marquette '93, a graduate student in the Slavic department. "This really fulfills the goal of Harvard--diversity--by bringing many different groups together in one space."

Rita L. Berardino '94 is the driving force behind the cafe. She founded it to fill need in the house, she says.

"Our master wanted us to do something with the space. Last year, and for a month or so this year, there was a cafe every two weeks in the Lower CommonRoom," Berardino says.

"There was a need, basically, and I'm notwriting a thesis, and I knew I wouldn't be chairof the House Committee anymore, and I wanted tokeep those ties," says Berardino, a Psychologyconcentrator.

Sunday through Thursday, Berardino bakescookies, brews coffee, and serves customers. Theprices are low--25 cents for chocolate chip andpeanut butter cookies, and 50 cents for coffee,tea and cocoa.

"Rita is really putting things together in abeautiful way," says Marilina Cirillo, anassistant senior tutor of Adams House.

Although Berardino is the founder and managerof the cafe and supervises the work, many othersfrom the house have offered to help.

"All the profits will go back to the HouseCommittee to repay the start up cost [of $2,500],"Berardino says. "None of the workers, entertainersor volunteers get paid. No one's getting anythingout of it [except a feeling of] just helping thehouse."

She says she wants to keep it that way. If sheor the other workers were paid, Berardino says, Itwould be a job instead of just a labor of love."

The cafe plays recorded jazz music or brings inHarvard talent to perform. One guitarist, whoplayed some selections from Velvet Underground andCowboy Junkies in the cafe last week, notes thatthe atmosphere is conducive to music.

"It's the kind of place where people just hangout. They don't just come to listen to theconcert," says Christine J. Cynn '96. "But AdamsHouse is a good place for this kind of thing."

Before she opened the Molotov, Berardino had noaspirations of running cafes after graduation, butshe has since given the matter some thought.

"Before I was thinking about going intofashion, but now I'm realizing I really enjoythis," Berardino says. "I would love to have myown cafe. I like every aspect of it."

One of her favorite parts of the work isinteracting with the customers." I have myregulars now and it's nice," she says. "I reallylike that contact."

One cafe frequenter likens the Molotov to CafePamplona.

"It looks a lot like Cafe Pamplona--it's kindof bare, with black wire tables and chairs," saysAlexa M. Gutheil '96. "But it's much nicer thanCafe Pamplona. It's homey.