Merci, Rafik Rabehi

Sacramento lost a great one this past Thursday when popular Cafe Rolle server and this city's unofficial French ambassador Rafik Rabehi passed away. He was 46.

Rafik, a Frenchman, was born in the small Alps city of Grenoble. He and I met back in 2003 and hung out a lot that summer. I was dating a girl from his hometown and had just moved back to Sacramento after living the Grenobloise life for a couple of years. We bonded over wine and cigarettes, and he'd always nudge me to practice improving my French-speaking skills.

Back then, it was a George W. Bush world in Sacramento. I remember the old Pine Cove bottle shop, which had hung an anti-France banner on its storefront window.

That damn banner pissed me off—but Rafik was able to bring some perspective, and humor, during those mad times.

Grenoble is nearly the same size as Sacramento, tucked away in the shadow of Alpe D'huez and near the Chartreuse national park. That area of France is a jewel, and Rafik was a sort of salesman for all things French during his time here in Sacramento.

His mother, who lives back in France but came to Sacramento during Rafik's recent illness, can be proud of her son's endless passion for his home country.

Most people know Rafik because he served them paté, salads and sandwiches at East Sacramento's Cafe Rolle, one of the city's most beloved and charming lunch spots. Rafik also was a popular teacher at The Learning Exchange. His enthusiasm for French culture and travel rubbed off on probably hundreds of Sacramentans. It certainly did on me.

There will be a memorial this week. Email if you would like more information.