It started with the cook. Then, according to talk circulating in the neighborhood, the police were called to resolve a loud dispute. The mayor took note of the building tension. And soon, the bickering between two Ball Square breakfast spots, separated by only two walls, was christened “the Breakfast Wars.”
Ball Square Café and Sound Bites have been locked in a sometimes fierce, sometimes cold battle over who is the best restaurant on the block over the past six months.
“I think everyone has been aware of the tension,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone one day this week after finishing a meal at Sound Bites.
But last week an olive branch was extended when Ball Square Café owner Mike Moccia sent a written apology to his past foe, Sound Bites owner Yasser Mirza. He also sent the letter to Curtatone.
In the letter, Moccia apologized for his part in the feud and expressed that he would make an effort to “no longer react emotionally and unprofessionally to any provocations of others.”
“I'm a professional, I have a business, so I can't talk to [Mirza] like a jerk. It's not good for the community, it's not peaceful to have it called the “breakfast war.” I want to do the right thing and maybe he will follow,” Moccia told The Somerville News.
However, Mirza is not yet ready to join in the call for peace and harmony on the 700 block of Broadway. He confirmed he received the letter from Moccia, but will not be reciprocating the gesture.
“I don't want to respond to his letter, I don't want to be civil, I just stay away from him,” he said.
Mirza said when his lease expired in May 2007, the Moccia family evicted him from the building, stole the menu and Djebbouri, and started a copycat café.
Moccia said Djebbouri was the original chef at Sound Bites when it was founded in 1992 by Julia Sati. Mirza has dismissed him as “the dishwasher.”
When Mirza moved from the Moccia's building, he didn't go far. He bought the space next door that once housed El Guapo. Today, the new Sound Bites has a much larger seating capacity, and is open for dinner with a full bar.
Yet despite the tension still existing between Moccia and Mirza, Ball Square is quickly gaining the reputation as a breakfast hotspot. Within two blocks, the square boasts four places for breakfast - Sound Bites, Ball Square Café, Kelly's Diner and True Grounds.
On most weekend mornings, two lines snake along the sidewalk of Broadway, huddled in hungry groups waiting for seating in either the Ball Square Café or Side Bites, depending on where their loyalties lie.
Sharifa Crandall prefers the Ball Square Café. “I love this place and they don't kick you out,” she said, alluding to Sound Bites reputation for scooting their customers out the door as soon as the last drop of coffee has been swallowed.
In the next line, Sarah Lindholm is waiting for a group of fellow Tufts students to meet her. They are regular patrons of Sound Bites.
“It's the best. There's certain things here that you can't get anywhere else, like a multigrain waffle with fresh fruit,” she said. “It doesn't matter how cold it is, we still come out and wait, it's worth it.”