There is a strong spirit of welcoming kindness in our San Diego hospitality industry, and I am thankful every day to be a part of it.” - Ingrid Croce
Ingrid sipped on a Belvedere martini, straight up with three olives. I sat directly opposite her on the infamous table 21; the table where Ingrid met her husband, Jimmy Rock. I decided to dive directly in with a question I like to ask every successful business owner: What have you learned from your mistakes? Specifically, I asked Ingrid to expand on what she had learned from her first restaurant venture in San Diego (a sort of drive through Blintz Joint in Hillcrest) and it’s closing after only a few short months in business. She declared, “Never sign a month to month lease if you intend to grow a business” and “It wasn’t just that we needed to build a [new] restaurant when we moved to the Gaslamp Quarter, it was that we needed to build a city.”
And apparently, that is exactly what Ingrid has been up to for the last 22 years. As one of the first people to open a restaurant in San Diego’s Historic Gaslamp Quarter to co-creating San Diego Restaurant Week and most recently, her book, The San Diego Restaurant Cookbook: Recipes
from America’s Finest City, which “celebrates the San Diego dining experience,” Ingrid truly embraces the local restaurant community.
Ingrid learned the value of a hard days work from her Dad. As a child, she recalls, “He was a doctor and he would make house calls in exchange for services …anything from chicken soup to plumbing, it didn’t matter” she went on to say, “He realized that there was value in every service, regardless.” Ingrid is no different than her Dad. On any given evening, you will find her working the door at Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar, greeting the guests and seating the tables. It seems as though she does not believe any job in the restaurant is below her. Ingrid’s goal on a daily basis is to recreate the atmosphere of “inviting guests into my own home,” which she has done very successfully, as is apparent by the amount of tables that request her presence just to say hello and catch up.
Ingrid Croce lives by the old saying, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” Daily paying tribute to her late husband, Jim Croce, “Jim’s music speaks of the lives of people today, yesterday, tomorrow… it’s not static music, it’s a music that is truly classic,” she adds, “[Croce’s] is a place where people come for closure, and great food and wine too!” A passionate musician and artist herself, Ingrid says, “It’s the fan letters she receives almost daily that keep her going.” And, additionally, her “love for live music and the people she meets at the Restaurant and Jazz Bar everyday that make the work worthwhile.” With an attitude like Ingrid’s, doesn’t it just seem possible to succeed in any business?