Renowned New York restaurateur, Jimmy Rodriguez, has returned to his roots with his latest culinary venture, Don Coqui, specializing in authentic Puerto Rican cuisine and located in New Rochelle, New York.
Born and raised in the South Bronx to Puerto Rican immigrants, Rodriguez grew up in a tight-knit community surrounded by the sounds and tastes of his parents’ native island. Puerto Rico was in his DNA and would become the very inspiration for his successful career as a restaurateur. Rodriguez developed his trademark mile-wide smile and unflappable charm at a very early age. A close friend later described Rodriguez to Crain’s New York Business saying, “Jimmy walks into a room, and he’ll say hello to 100 people before he leaves.”
Rodriguez was particularly impressed by his grandfather Don Francisco Rodriguez. His grandfather instilled in him the value of work and that patience and kindness can make or break a person; traits he has now passed down to his daughters, Jaleene and Jewelle, co-owners of Don Coqui and the new generation of Rodriguez restaurateurs.
While in high school, Rodriguez joined his father selling seafood from the trunk of
their parked car near the Cross-Bronx Expressway. The duo eventually set up a stand on a shady corner and added other Puerto Rican seafood delights. They later moved from the streets to the sidewalk when they opened a 50-seat restaurant named Marisco del Caribe—Spanish for Caribbean seafood. The restaurant industry proved to be the perfect environment for Rodriguez’s infectious personality.
By the 1990s, Rodriguez decided to expand to an establishment perched on a hillside where Jimmy’s Bronx Café was born. Jimmy’s Bronx Café was a 48,000 square foot complex, which included a 400-seat dining room, a sports bar, a night club and elegant catering hall. The restaurant often hosted celebrities, artists, politicians and international dignitaries.
In 2000, Rodriguez helped spark the Harlem Renaissance when he opened Jimmy’s Uptown in Harlem. Even before construction was finished, Rodriguez proved his celebrity pull when Woody Allen hosted an opening party for his film “Sweet and Lowdown” in the half-finished restaurant.
From uptown he headed downtown and in 2002, he opened Jimmy’s Downtown, an oasis of posh urban design. A 100-foot long bar lit by candles and flat-screen TVs led to an oval dining room. Jimmy’s Downtown food specialty was again Nuevo Latino, which included his famous yucca crusted scallops, duck empanadas and black bass in grapefruit mustard salsa.
In 2003, Rodriguez opened Jimmy’s City Island, in a nautical area of the Bronx. Jimmy’s City Island was slickly designed featuring fresh seafood and Latino/Asian-themed dishes.
Rodriguez introduced the restaurant Sofrito in 2006, as a tribute in honor of his father. With Sofrito, Rodriguez took the first step towards returning to his native roots; an idea his father always preached but Rodriguez had long ignored. “My father was always right about this concept of authenticity and remaining true to your roots,” Rodriguez admits. Sofrito is known to be the basic ingredient found in Puerto Rican cuisine. Sofrito’s instant success earned the restaurant the title of being “The Best Latino Restaurant in all New York City.”
It took a decade, almost two, for Rodriquez to finally take what his father was telling
him all along to heart and to fruition. Don Coqui is a family labor of love that brings the Rodriguez family passion for food and entertaining to new heights.
I want to thank Jimmy and his family for extending me the invite. I had a remarkable time.
Nos vemos alla en la proxima….
As I am,
About Sofrito For Your Soul
We promote the evolution of Latino culture in the United States. Our mission is to share the spirit of our heritage through art, fashion, music, dance, traditions and emerging trends.