Cesarina Mezzoni was just 20 when she and her husband, Niccolò Angius, made the decision to move to the United States in 2015 from their native home in Rome, Italy.
“It was an impulsive decision,” Mezzoni said in a phone interview. “We liked the city, we liked the weather and so we decided to move here.”
Mezzoni is a self-taught chef whose Seychelles-born mother inspired his love of Italian cuisine. Mezzoni’s mother learned traditional Roman dishes as a way to assimilate into Italian culture. Her mother’s passion for Italian cuisine rubbed off on her daughter.
“She’s a very good Italian cook,” Mezzoni said of her mother. “She moved to Italy when she was very young. And then she met my dad, so she started learning the basic traditional Italian and Roman dishes. She’s an exceptional cook, so I started to get excited for her. We spent a lot of time together in the kitchen.
“My dad said of my mom that she first learned to make carbonara and then learned to speak Italian. That’s how they communicated back then because my dad couldn’t speak English and my mom could not speak Italian.
Mezzoni’s husband, meanwhile, grew up working in restaurants owned by his family. He says his longtime dream was to open a restaurant in the United States, so upon meeting Mezzoni the dream was sealed and the two decided to emigrate to the United States together.
So, like her mother before her, Mezzoni found herself immigrating to a foreign land, using her passion for Italian cuisine as a means of assimilation.
The couple embarked on a project to study the food scene in San Diego, hoping to open their own restaurant. First, they both found jobs in restaurants. Then they decided to open their own business selling fresh homemade pasta at various farmers’ markets. This led the couple to open Cesarina Ristorante in February 2019 in the Point Loma Heights neighborhood.
Cesarina has been buzzing around the San Diego food scene since its inception. The caliber of food, ambience and hospitality have elevated Cesarina to the top of the must-try list.
“We were really surprised it happened so quickly,” Angius said of the restaurants’ early success. “We’ve always had a firm belief that if you work hard and believe in what you’re doing, things will be fine. But it was amazing how it happened. We didn’t expect the restaurant to be full like this after a week, but it was amazing how everyone adapted to it.
“And we hope that we will stay for a long time. We want to make sure people are always happy,” he added.
As for what sets the restaurant apart from many other Italian restaurants in San Diego? For Mezzoni, everything revolves around pasta.
“What sets us apart from other Italian restaurants is our pasta. We make all the pasta in-house and we have a special station in the restaurant where everyone can see the process and how the pasta is made,” she said. “And we have a very special dessert service. Before COVID, we used to make desserts at the table, so people were very impressed with our tiramisu because everyone is used to seeing tiramisu already made on a plate.
Angius adds that the magic ingredient in each dish, what really sets them apart is that everything on offer is made with love.
“It was inspired by Cesarina herself, because when we opened this restaurant, my goal was to bring the love that I receive every day when my wife cooks for me,” he explained. “I always tell her that her food isn’t delicious just because the food she makes is delicious, but it’s delicious because of the love she puts into it. So I wanted to bring that to our guests. .
In 2020, just like the rest of the world, Cesarina had to adapt to rapidly changing rules and regulations in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“It wasn’t easy,” Angius said. “It’s going to be weird to hear, but I have to say it was pretty exciting having to completely switch from a business model that was proving strong and giving us great results, and having to immediately readjust to different models. We we (discovered) that delivery is actually extremely fun.
Cesarina has always considered her staff like family. So, in the midst of the global pandemic, Angius and Mezzoni did what family does: they took care of their staff.
“Instead of outsourcing deliveries, we started using our staff. It was a win-win because not only were our staff able to stay employed, but the people we delivered to loved that they were the same people they see in the restaurant every day,” Angius said.
They also took the opportunity to expand their outdoor dining area, building two additional patios.
“We try to always have a positive approach and find opportunities in everything that happens. So to see this tragedy, because it is a tragedy and the cost of human life is enormous, but to see this as an opportunity really gave us the strength to adapt.” and find solutions that have kept us healthy so far,” he said.
Whatever happens in 2021, the future already looks bright for Cesarina Ristorante.
Plans are underway to grow the brand into a full-service restaurant business and to add a retail segment and possibly a second restaurant.
For Angius, whatever the future, experience will always come first.
“The thing that we are still reminded of every day is consistency. [We are] always trying to raise the bar, always trying to get things done, always trying to find solutions that will improve the overall experience, not only for the guests, but also for the people who work with us,” he said. declared.
When employees are happy, Angius thinks customers feel it.
“And the consequence is that in the end we get more positive feedback from guests because it’s a work of people,” Angius said.
For more information about Cesarina Ristorante, visit cesarinarestaurant.com.