San Marino is full of hidden treasures, especially in the culinary department. Most of the restaurants here are owned and operated by area residents, and some have been serving the community for decades. This week, Patch Picks goes behind the scenes at five local restaurants to meet the folks who prove that when it comes to good food and friendly service, there’s just no place like San Marino.
. Though Julienne’s chef-owner Susan Campoy passed away two years ago, her signature culinary creations continue to delight the loyal patrons of the restaurant she founded in 1985. (Her daughter Julie, who had been her partner since 1989, runs the business today.) Campoy authored a cookbook before she died, entitled , which has just been reprinted and features an enticing array of Julienne favorites.
. Owner and Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Jocelyn Hanson opened Garnish in November of 2010, putting together a selection of café-style favorites for breakfast and lunch, including paninis, sandwiches and fresh-baked goods. “We really try to do fresh, local seasonal ingredients,” Hanson said. “It’s kind of American fare with European influences.” (Garnish also offers more elaborate options for catering, specializing in custom-made menus.) Hanson's flair for cooking seems to be in the genes—she recently discovered that her grandmother worked as a cook in an Italian restaurant during the Great Depression. When asked what she loves most about her job, Hanson replied, “I really do get excited about [cooking] every day. I read cookbooks like people read novels.”
. Started by fishmongers Jeff Norris and George Banks eight years ago, San Marino Seafood prides itself on the quality of its fresh fish and seafood. Norris is now retired, but Banks can still be found behind the counter at the restaurant more often than not, working with his chef Gabriel Mejia on recipes and making sure that all is as it should be for his customers. Though he never received formal culinary training, Banks has always loved cooking for people. “I enjoy the heck out of it,” he said. He’ll also take special orders if there’s something you want that isn’t in stock. I asked him what was the strangest request he ever received and he answered quickly: 40 pounds of live crawfish. “It looked like something from a movie when I opened the box,” he said. “It scared the bejeebers out of me!”
. This local landmark will celebrate its 46th year this July. Owner Gina-Marie Stea inherited the business from her father and continues to serve his traditional diner recipes, while adding some creative inventions of her own to the menu—for example, a pumpkin oatmeal with pecans. “People are kind of pleasantly surprised,” said Stea. “It’s fun to do a new twist on things.” As a child and then as a teenager, Stea was involved in every aspect of running the San Marino Grill. Today, Stea’s sons also help out in the shop from time to time. “It’s a family affair,” Stea said, “the way it was for me when I grew up.”
. Owner Vivian Chan and her husband, Executive Chef Stephen Chan, serve an extensive menu of Chinese favorites at Jasmine Café. What sets Jasmine Café apart, however, is the dedication of the Chans to seeking out more ways to make Chinese cuisine that is just as healthy as it is flavorful—which led to the creation of their HealthyCuisine products. According to the Web site, “Stephen used special cooking methods and low fat ingredients such as grape seed oil, low sodium soy sauce, spices and herbs to ensure that the healthy guidelines were met AND the natural flavor of the foods was preserved.” Chan has more than more than 20 years in the food and restaurant business and his passion "is experimenting in the kitchen with the unique flavors and perspectives of Asia."