Published on January 15th, 2013 | by Sandra Fong Young0
Culinary Spotlight: Owner Michael Alves & Chef Craig Jimenez of Roseville Cozinha
Roses, Fish & Bromances
This story starts over a century ago, when Portuguese and Italian immigrants followed San Diego pioneer Louis Rose to an area he, narcissistically named Roseville. The oldest settled part of Point Loma, Roseville became a hub for tuna fisherman and their families. Instead of “America’s Finest City,” San Diego was “America’s Tuna Fishing Capital.”
Local restaurateur Michael Alves descends from these roots and is rallying to bring back the “fish-to-fork” mantra of his ancestors in his latest venture, Roseville Cozinha. (“Cozinha” = “kitchen” in Portuguese.) And for those foodies who will ask, no, there is no association with Point Loma’s former Roseville restaurant with its high-end French-Mediterranean fare. This eatery is decidedly simple and rustic, focusing on immigrant family dishes, with a few updates for modern tastebuds.
Within Point Loma’s Liberty Station Promenade, Roseville Cozinha occupies the space previously housed by the Alves-owned Joao’s Tin Fish Bar and Eatery, but he notes, “The ambiance and atmosphere has changed completely.” Nostalgia-evoking décor includes black and white photos of fishing days past, reclaimed pendant lights from old farm toasters and copper pots from Alves’ grandmother.
For Roseville Cozinha’s seasonal cuisine, what’s not housemade, comes as local as possible. To name a few: vegetables from PL Farms and Shoemaker Farms in Ramona, shellfish from Carlsbad Aquafarms and craft beer courtesy of Ballast Point and Stone. Touted dishes for seafood include, Wood Oven Roasted Mussels & Carlsbad Steamers, for pizzas from the restaurant’s wood fired oven, Wild Mushroom Pizza, and for desserts, Portuguese Sweet Bread Pudding.
As well, Alves has brought the old-fashioned version of “bros” with him, including good friend Craig Jimenez as executive chef; Point Loma native and Tender Greens Point Loma Executive Chef Pete Balistreri for menu development; along with childhood buddy and Cohn Restaurant Group’s Sommelier Maurice DiMarino to develop the Portuguese- and Italian-exclusive wine list.
“We operate the restaurant like a family. Everybody has a good time and makes the long days preparing meals fly by,” says Jimenez.
And he adds, “We love to eat!”
EatSD spoke with Alves and Jimenez to learn more.
Q: How did the two of you become friends?
Michael Alves: We met back in ‘07 when Craig was a chef at the Guild and I was a patron. I had just opened my first restaurant … Every time I came in, Craig made it a point to come over and speak to me. We exchanged numbers and kept in contact.
Q: Michael, you say that you come from a “tight-knit Portuguese family.” What does this mean?
Alves: Growing up in a Portuguese/tuna fishing family means you’re always surrounded by loud women who cook. You either have the choice to cook or do the dishes. I always chose to cook.
Q: You’ve also involved your extended family of sorts in developing Roseville Cozinha. What are the pros to working with friends? Cons?
Alves: Best thing about working with my friends is that we have the opportunity to collaborate and share our experiences and great ideas. I know that they’re looking out for my best interest and want to see this restaurant succeed. Cons are that they have a lot of great ideas, and you can’t always execute them, so you have to choose what makes the most sense for the overall concept.
Q: Craig, you started out as a consultant for Roseville Cozinha. When did it transform into a full-time position?
Jimenez: Late-November last year, I sat down with Mike to see where he was at with the re-launch, and the more we talked about the direction of the food philosophy and plans, I felt right at home to help him full-time.
Q: What is your meal of choice on the menu?
Alves: Cioppino – my grandmother’s recipe.
Craig Jimenez: Anything roasted in the oak-fired oven, such as the roasted shrimp. Then there’s the corned beef sandwich we do only offer on Mondays: We use fresh rye bread from Catherine next door at Con Pane. And, I could keep going …
Q: As a culinary scene, what does San Diego excel at?
Alves: I think SD excels at brewing. We have the best local beers and are considered to be the micro-brew capital of the U.S.
Jimenez: Our chef and brewer community is really tight knit, and local charitable events are always successful.
Q: What does San Diego still need to work on food-wise?
Alves: I think SD needs to work on supporting local restaurants and businesses. I hate seeing out-of-towners or large chains come in my town, and people begin to forget about the “ma and pop” businesses that have been there for years.
Q: Michael, what have you learned from operating Da Kine’s Plate Lunches and Joao’s Tin Fish Bar and Eatery that has helped you with your newest venture?
Alves: From Da Kine’s, I’ve learned simplicity. From Joao’s, I’ve learned that just because it sounds good, looks good, it doesn’t always mean that it will turn out well. You don’t have to be extraordinary to be successful. You simply have to stay true to your roots and what you believe in.
Q: And for Roseville Cozinha, what has been the biggest challenge up ‘til now?
Jimenez: Liberty Station is a historic land site and changing the facade by mounting our restaurant name is a long process. Just follow your nose in the mean time.
2750 Dewey Road #104
San Diego, CA 92106