July 19, 2005 Café Roma is a St. John institution. Josh Crosley has dished up very nice Italian fare since 1988, but the restaurant has been around longer than that. Crosley said it's been there at least as far back as the very early 1980s.
Tucked up the stairs above Joe's Diner on what is officially called Vesta Gade most people refer to it as the street between the Post Office and Connections the cozy eatery has something for nearly everyone.
"I think the marinara sauce is great. It's my recipe. And the puttanesca is very good," Crosley said.
She's also fond of the vegetarian dish she calls Sierra. It's made of asparagus, garlic, oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese over pasta.
Crosley several years ago stopped selling pizza to the customers sitting at the restaurant's tables for economic reasons, but said that she's putting plate-sized pies back on the menu because customers asked for a return of the restaurant's pizza. If you want a full-sized pie, you'll still have to take it out.
Crosley had a background in the restaurant business thanks to jobs waitressing and bartending in her native Virginia.
In fact, she was a waitress at Café Roma when she cut a deal with former owner Buzz McGuinness. She said they wanted to sell, so she was in the right place at the right time.
A self-taught chef, she said she immediately bought every Italian cookbook she could find to help hone her cooking skills. To this day, she's a cookbook junkie, and also tunes in to Mario Batali's show on the Food Network.
"He inspires me," she said.
Crosley said that Italian cooking isn't hard it's just a matter of putting the ingredients together.
After landing on St. John late in 1986, Crosley sold T-shirts for a while at the old Stitches shop. She and a friend then ran the long-closed Quickie's Restaurant in Coral Bay until she signed on at Café Roma.
Crosley said she still finds challenges in running her restaurant. For starters, finding staff is hard. However, she said those that stick around are good workers because they have what it takes to survive on St. John.
And Crosley said that expenses just keep going up and up, which means making a living harder and harder to accomplish.
She said she's learned a lot about running a business during her 17 years at Café Roma.
"You should have a 10-year plan because after 10 years nearly everybody needs a change," she said.
She also suggested that setting money aside is a good idea.
Crosley now has help with her business from her 12-year-old daughter, Hannah McMurry. She said Hannah helps out by clearing tables.
"She's a big help," she said.
Café Roma is open from 5 to 10 p.m. every day.
Call 776-6524 to order your pizza. The restaurant does not take reservations.
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