The proof is in the pudding
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 9/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Pete Moceo is a culinary man of mystery, unwilling to discuss his restaurant background or other professional qualifications. He reveals little more than the fact that his current enterprise owes its existence to an Italian vacation he took three years ago. Whether he spent time gazing at Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus or driving the Amalfi Coast, the world will never know. Moceo does admit, however, that he managed to visit a few high-style gelaterias. The experience was an epiphany for him, and he came home to the U.S. with visions of desserts dancing in his head.
Not sugarplums or gelato, though. "I'd had rice on my mind since before the trip to Italy," recalls Moceo, a lonely holdout in an anti-carbohydrate world. The result of his obsession is the swishy NoLIta rice-pudding parlor Rice to Riches—possibly the first of its kind.
Award-winning pastry chef Jemal Edwards concocted a menu of 21 flavors including Bottomless Pear With Anise, Stubborn Banana With Coconut, and Chocolate Carnivore With Dark Raisins, all served in colorful plastic bowls designed by Moceo. The owner also took charge of the 1,500-square-foot interior, built with the assistance of an architect of record and two contractors.
The Rice to Riches logo is a pair of ellipses resembling plump rice grains, though Moceo swears that he never intended it to be rice-related. "The ellipse is just a strong shape," he says. "I could envision it everywhere." And it is, indeed, everywhere—from the storefront window to the door pulls and a recess in the dropped ceiling inside. Curved walls and counters represent looser applications. "No corners," says Moceo.
Neon-backlit bands of brown and orange poured resin are silicone-adhered to the face of a 25-foot-long elliptical counter where orders are taken and cash changes hands. A 7-foot-long communal table topped in white acrylic and more orange poured resin stands right across the way. At the shop's rear, a booth with a white leather-padded back curves around three small round tables. Also in white acrylic and orange resin, they're suspended from the ceiling by white-enameled steel poles—for "shock value," explains Moceo.
Graphics firm Hassenstein Design and Berlin photographer Idris Kolodziej completed Moceo's playful scheme with a color palette deriving from selected rice puddings: cinnamon red, coffee brown, mango orange, apple green. For the wall behind the service counter, graphic artist Susanne Hassenstein digitally manipulated a Kolodziej image of whipped cream, transforming it into the peaks of a creamy mountain range. A fruit montage—pineapple, coconut, kiwi—appears behind the booth at the rear. In the front, Kolodziej computer-generated a mural depicting an oversize rice storm. Grab a spoon, then take cover.