CHEF JAMES CAMPBELL CARUSO
In case you did not know, I have been a groupie of La Boca since they first opened their doors in 2006. The place has always had a 'je ne sais quoi" about it that has always drawn me. I am not the only one who has made La Boca a favorite stop to join up with friends or family! I think one of the reasons I like going there is because I feel like "everyone knows my name." There is a familiarity and comfort when I am there. It is like I am part of the family. Plus, I go there knowing that I am going to enjoy one of the most flavorful meals put together with the Italian sensibility of nourishment and love that go hand in hand with food. This is James Campbell Caruso's gift - to bring together delicious food that is more grounded in his experience within his own Italian and Irish family and as a chef than simply putting fancy food together.
La Boca is one of those restaurants that feels like it has been around for a long time. I sat with James, whose love for food and family are primary and he told me that this his goal is to be around for a long time, for decades. I think it easily will be. When a business is made with true passion as is La Boca, it survives the ups and downs that come with running a business.
As I talk to him, it is easy for me to imagine him back in his home in Norwood, Massachusetts. While all the kids would be kicked out of the Italian matriarchal kitchen, his grandmother saw a gift in him for understanding the intricacies in food and he would get to stay in the woman's kingdom. James describes his grandmother as all love . . . This shows in his own restaurant. Food = Love.
James' father, the Irish element in his family, also played a role in his food development. His Dad would take him fishing and taught him every aspect of catching fish: cleaning, cutting, storing and of course, preparing it. Being in the high desert we forget that there is a whole lifestyle and knowledge of seafood when you grow up by the ocean. James brings this experience to us in his food.
Family impresses us so profoundly. In talking with James, he describes how his love for food was drawn from his family as was his love for music! Did you know he is a musician? His grandfather was a vaudeville musician traveling around the country with his brother and performing his jams. What a background! In fact, on his father's side, it was all about music. James brings this to La Boca occasionally and recently recorded an album with one his managers. I cannot wait to hear it!
But what restaurant or life is complete without some sweet involved? Leslie, his wife, is that sweet element. They met while working in a restaurant in Albuquerque where they were going to school. Her own unique background as a pastry chef has also formed the magic of La Boca. The two grew up and evolved together, raised a family and continue to support one another's efforts and passions. It is both beautiful and sweet.
Food, family, love. It is what I have taken away from talking with James. He is one of those guys that makes you nostalgic for those things and he brings it to us through La Boca! I have real admiration for him. Being in business is not easy. James is a natural! See you there!
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