Disgruntled belly dancer holds Taverna Opa's website hostage
Last week, New Times brought you the story of "soupnazi," the Miami superhacker who stole more than 41 million credit card numbers. This week's featured cyber-pirate looks a lot better in midriff-exposing silk — and is a master at dancing the hora.
In 1998, dark-haired and alluring Argentine Aisha Ismail was the first belly dancer at Hollywood Greek restaurant Taverna Opa, which has since spawned a chain. The gimmick caught on, so the restaurant recruited more Middle Eastern rug-cutters. "She didn't like that," says Sophia Pheodore, daughter of Taverna Opa owner Peter Tsialiamanis. "She couldn't take sharing tips."
Ismail began dancing instead at Milos, a Greek seafood restaurant in Boca Raton. And then the hummus hit the fan. Ismail, a part-time computer programmer, bought the domain name tavernaopa.com — and refused to sell it to the restaurant, even when offered $5,000. She demanded $25,000 instead.
Then, according to a federal complaint first reported by local blog South Florida Lawyers, Ismail started heralding her new employer on tavernaopa.com: "I will like to invite you to the new restaurant 'Milos' best and freshest seafood."
In 2008, Taverna Opa sued for cyber-piracy, demanding $100,000 in damages. Though Ismail, who had moved from her listed South Beach apartment, was never served with papers, Judge William Hoeveler awarded the restaurant a default judgment of $10,000.
But Riptide had little problem arranging a meeting with the renegade temptress at a Sunny Isles Beach supermarket. Speaking dramatically in a thickly-accented, high-pitched voice, she called Tsialiamanis a "snake" and declared that she was mostly responsible for the Taverna Opa franchise's success: "He forgot when Aisha go moving moving moving dancing dancing dancing."
Ismail says that she didn't hear of the lawsuit until after it was decided, and claims she had advertised for Milos only on her own personal website, aishaismail.com. "But anyway," she adds, "tavernaopa.com was mine, so I could do whatever I wanted."
She doesn't have the money to pay the judgment, she says. "I'm a simple village woman. I don't want problem," Ismail adds before asking for the number of a cheap lawyer.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.