Combining food and culture is local restaurateur's recipe for success
Published - 02/18/15 - 07:21 AM | 4846 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Giuseppe Ciuffa says Italian immigrants left their 'unique footprint' in San Diego. COURTESY PHOTO
Giuseppe Ciuffa says Italian immigrants left their 'unique footprint' in San Diego. COURTESY PHOTO
Those who don’t know Giuseppe Ciuffa from his La Jolla eateries (Museum Café and Caroline’s Seaside Café) might recognize him from spin classes at La Jolla Sports Club or surfing at Black’s or Hospital beaches.

Ciuffa, a La Jolla Village resident, moved here from his hometown of Cori, Italy to learn English more than 20 years ago. Now, he runs a successful local catering business, Giuseppe’s Restaurants & Fine Catering, which includes three cafés, a coffee bistro and a role as a principal partner in a fine-dining Italian restaurant.

“Italians have a way of keeping our culture in our heart no matter where we are,” said Ciuffa. “So while I’m sure Italian immigrants helped San Diego grow and prosper through the tuna industry, we left our own unique footprint — as you can see with Little Italy and the Italian Cultural Center.”

As an avid art and music lover, Ciuffa believes every dining experience should be a cultural one. He also loves to locate his restaurants within centers of entertainment and culture, he says.

Ciuffa’s Museum Café, at 700 Prospect St., is attached to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, set atop the sea cliffs in the Cove. It’s a European-inspired sidewalk café serving healthful dishes using fresh, local ingredients.

His other North County restaurant, Caroline’s Seaside Café, 8610 Kennel Way, is one of the few eateries serving the UCSD Scripps Institute of Oceanography campus; it's located steps from the beach, with a patio overlooking the water. In keeping aligned with UCSD’s and Scripps Seaside Forum’s emphases on environmental conservation, Ciuffa operates Caroline’s with the same philosophy toward food. The popular café serves healthful California-style cuisine with a focus on organic, sustainable ingredients.

Both cafes are open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., offering egg dishes, pancakes, bagels and granola for breakfast, as well as salads, burgers and sandwiches at lunch. Alcoholic beverages, specialty coffee drinks and baked goods are available at both restaurants, as well as a larger brunch menu on weekends.

“Both La Jolla venues are extremely busy year-round with weddings, functions of any type and big galas,” said Ciuffa. “Because location is No. 1, the fact that we are not in free-standing buildings allows us to build in a catering clientèle.”

Ciuffa’s other properties are located in downtown San Diego, including Sonata Bistro and High Note Café in the Symphony Towers. He also serves as the director of operations at Italian restaurant and marketplace Bottega Americano.

“Italian food is central to our lifestyle, so anywhere there are groups of Italians you’ll see restaurants serving our food in an authentic way,” said Ciuffa. “It’s where we meet, celebrate and connect with each other.”

A former triathlete, Ciuffa remains passionate about cycling and other outdoor fitness activities. He’s an active member of the local cycling community and participates in the annual Million Dollar Challenge ride from San Francisco to San Diego, benefiting the Challenged Athletes Foundation. He’s also a member of the PEERS Network of entrepreneurs to support philanthropies.

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