Sylvia Moubayed: Providence Loses a Legendary Restaurateur
Providence Loses a Legendary Restaurateur
It still seems unimaginable that Sylvia Moubayed will not appear at CAV ever again. She passed away suddenly in September at 80, still at the helm of her beloved Providence restaurant. So much an embodiment of her style and spirit, it was imbued with her warmth and care and she was almost always there, overseeing her creation.
Sylvia was an amazing woman, wearing her life experience and optimism on her face. Whether it was her two broken thumbs, acquired during an assault, or her flowing outfits and shaggy haircut, she was entirely authentic.
She never mended her two crooked digits because she felt they were part of her identity, a life that included fleeing Egypt, and her aristocratic background, with a Faberge egg and the clothes on her back. The egg was later stolen, so she and her family became essentially penniless.
She made her way to Providence, via the Congo. After working at different jobs, Sylvia opened CAV in the former Imperial Knife factory. At first it was Coffee, Art and Victuals and she began it with one electric frying pan and no liquor license.
Jules Ramos, who is currently executive chef at Café Nuovo, remembers her well. “Sylvia was one of the first few women in the city with a restaurant. She was tough, iconoclastic and unlike anyone else. She was hands-on, personally overseeing her vision, her flavor profiles. Her personality and her French mother came through in her superb food. I admired her greatly.”
Over the years, she transformed her simple spot into one of the finest restaurants in the city, earning myriad awards and recognition. Financial success was less important than the happiness of her customers, whom she always referred to as guests. She wanted them to have a great experience, sit in fabulous Biedermeier chairs, under glittering chandeliers, surrounded by the art she had collected around the world.
She made annual trips until her 70s riding donkeys to remote mountaintops to collect the rugs she sold at CAV. Sylvia was full of love—for her restaurant; for her three sons, Shereen, John and Peter Moubayed; for her husband, Aly Stallman; and for travel and adventure. She lived a full and enviable life and she will be truly missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to know her, or to eat at her fine establishment.