In 1946, Ito and Minoru Matoba moved to the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles after being released from an internment camp and opened the Atomic Cafe. Because African Americans had moved into the area during the war, the environment was cosmopolitan and racially mixed, which was rare at the time. The Matobas responded with a menu composed of eclectic "Japanese Chinese American" cuisine with noodles and hamburgers coexisting nicely. When asked why he chose the Atomic name so soon after the nuclear strikes against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mr. Matoba replied, "People will always remember the atomic bomb. Maybe they will always remember the Atomic Cafe."
Atomic Cafe entered a wild new phase in the late 1970s under the influence of Matoba's daughter, Nancy Sekizawa, otherwise known as Atomic Nancy, who introduced a punk aesthetic to the restaurant. A combination of "the best noodles in town" and a unique jukebox playing classic rock and crooners, local punk press albums, and Japanese 45s attracted a wild clientele. According to Sekizawa, "Most punk rockers were misfits and that's why I felt like — I felt pretty good. I didn't feel like I ever blended, anywhere. [The Atomic Cafe] was a home for the ones that didn't feel like they ever had a home." Atomic Nancy helped create the inclusive but raucous atmosphere, slinging bowls of noodles to patrons on a pair of roller skates and serving as the restaurant DJ every night.
The Atomic Cafe closed in 1989, and its former location was later demolished to make way for a subway station. When asked if a place like Atomic Cafe could exist today, Atomic Nancy was skeptical. "We did everything against all the codes, citations, we broke them then, and there would be such severe consequences today," she said. Which is a pity, because the place sounds like it was a blast.