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March 21, 2012

On my last morning in Casablanca I had the good luck, and lots of local recommendations, to swing past Chez Paul for breakfast. Considering the strong influence of French cuisine on Morocco's pastry life, it should come as no surprise that the croissants were extra flaky and the butter rich as can be. But Chez Paul also has the good fortune of residing in the splendid modern villa that Jean-Francois Zevaco and Paolo Messina designed in 1949 as Villa Sami Suissa.

1 / 5
The most dramatic feature of the facade is the big swooping balcony on the second floor and the wonderful, deep shade that it provides from the hot Moroccan sun.
The most dramatic feature of the facade is the big swooping balcony on the second floor and the wonderful, deep shade that it provides from the hot Moroccan sun.
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2 / 5
Waiters raced in and out of the restaurant. The looked so efficient and official in their white uniforms.
Waiters raced in and out of the restaurant. The looked so efficient and official in their white uniforms.
Photo by 
3 / 5
A closer look at the period detailing on the facade. I was reminded of the grille of a big old Cadillac.
A closer look at the period detailing on the facade. I was reminded of the grille of a big old Cadillac.
Photo by 
4 / 5
I noticed a bunch of expats and French in the crowd while I was sitting on the terrace. And all the architecture buffs I talked with in Casablanca told me that I must get to Chez Paul. It's address is Angle Boulevard d'Anfa at Boulevard Moulay Rachid.
I noticed a bunch of expats and French in the crowd while I was sitting on the terrace. And all the architecture buffs I talked with in Casablanca told me that I must get to Chez Paul. It's address is Angle Boulevard d'Anfa at Boulevard Moulay Rachid.
Photo by 
5 / 5
zevaco swoop

When I arrived the place was already buzzing, and the triangular terrace that Zevaco and Messina originally designed to have a swimming pool was ripe with cigarette smoke and Arabic-accented French. A host of fleet waiters nipped from here to there like the bees in the tall foliage that protected the building—now called Villa Zevaco—from the traffic outside.

The most dramatic feature of the facade is the big swooping balcony on the second floor and the wonderful, deep shade that it provides from the hot Moroccan sun.
The most dramatic feature of the facade is the big swooping balcony on the second floor and the wonderful, deep shade that it provides from the hot Moroccan sun.

Thanks to the preservationist group CasaMemoire's Casablanca Guide to 20th Century Architecture, I learned that the renovation of the residence into Chez Paul involved joining two spaces under the balcony into one functioning whole. Today on the lefthand side a takeout and pastry case tends to customers on the run—I got a pair of mean sandwiches for the plane there—and to the right the dining room entertains guests who stop in for a coffee or a tea.

Waiters raced in and out of the restaurant. The looked so efficient and official in their white uniforms.
Waiters raced in and out of the restaurant. The looked so efficient and official in their white uniforms.
A closer look at the period detailing on the facade. I was reminded of the grille of a big old Cadillac.
A closer look at the period detailing on the facade. I was reminded of the grille of a big old Cadillac.

All told, it was one of the best meals that I had in Casablanca, even if I did have to run for the airport afterward. After all my running around the big city streets, a more intimate pause with a grand old villa was a perfect cap to my time. And as so much of the city is strongly Art Deco, a little bit of mid-century modernism stood me in good stead for the eight-hour flight from Casablanca to New York.

I noticed a bunch of expats and French in the crowd while I was sitting on the terrace. And all the architecture buffs I talked with in Casablanca told me that I must get to Chez Paul. It's address is Angle Boulevard d'Anfa at Boulevard Moulay Rachid.
I noticed a bunch of expats and French in the crowd while I was sitting on the terrace. And all the architecture buffs I talked with in Casablanca told me that I must get to Chez Paul. It's address is Angle Boulevard d'Anfa at Boulevard Moulay Rachid.

Finally, I found this truly odd video on YouTube that shows loads of pictures of Villa Zevaco's facade. I'm pretty sure the music is "I Could Have Danced All Night," but the photos sure are nice.

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