Cafe Rosa: Southern comfort on College Hill

It’s no secret that cafeteria food loses its appeal after the first few weeks of the semester. Even the illustrious “Premium Night” at Alex’s pales in comparison to the thought of a warm, lovingly cooked meal from home. Students who are looking to experience such tasty homemade meals can look no further than our own College Hill.

Taking up residence in the previous home of College Hill Ice Cream is Café Rosa, an All-American eatery specializing in delicious food and family values.

“This is a really good place; not just a home away from home, but the food away from home,” said Carolyn Watkins, one of the owners.

Jerome and Carolyn Watkins, both native to the Beaver County area, began their restaurant project in New Brighton a little over two years ago. Formerly known as Rosalee’s Southern Cuisine, they concentrated mostly on events and catering projects. Their business began to gather interest from Geneva College faculty and local residents, and soon they found that it had a growing following in the College Hill community.

When they found out from a regular customer that there was a space opening up on the hill, it was a no-brainer for them to pick up shop and relocate.

Both Jerome and Carolyn have extensive backgrounds in the catering, event planning, and food service industries. Chef Jerome, the secret behind their appetizing creations, studied hotel restaurant management in school and further pursued an education at Westmoreland County Community College, where he was classically trained in culinary arts in conjunction with the Duquesne Club. This provided him with both a formal education, as well as real-world experience.

His wife, Carolyn has been a certified wedding and event planner for over twenty years. Together, their skills and efforts collaborate to keep their business running smoothly and successfully.

The menu is filled with a wide variety of items, from spaghetti and meatballs, to chicken marsala with green beans, to home-style sweet potato pie. They have even created a menu item with students especially in mind: the “piled high fries”, which serve at least four people for an affordable $8.

But Carolyn and Jerome are not simply in it for the food.

“We want to do some things differently,” said Carolyn. Being part of the community is important to them, and their hopes are that Café Rosa is key in encouraging families and the community to come together and spend time with one another. Culture, food, family and neighbors all come together around the dinner table, and this is a tradition both Jerome and Carolyn aspire to refresh and preserve through their work.

Through the welcoming atmosphere inside, the frequent presence of live music from local musicians, such as Betty Douglas, and the passion and care that goes in to their craft, Carolyn and Jerome Watkins have created the perfect beginnings for a local spot that is sure to become a family favorite.

“We’re in to stay,” said Carolyn. “It’s family here, period.”

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