After nearly three decades, Ingrid Croce and her staff of 75 are leaving the Gaslamp Quarter.
“I really enjoy being with the staff because they're like family to me, and I really enjoy the guests,” Ingrid said.
Croce's has been a comfortable mix of food and music that attracted couples, like the Frondoni’s when they moved from Italy to San Diego.
“You can't imagine downtown without Croce’s,” Giorgio Frondoni said.
“It has just been such an important icon for the city and those of us who love Jim Croce's music,” Lisa Sinclitico Frondoni added.
In 1973, Ingrid’s famous singer/songwriter husband died in a plane crash. A week before the tragedy, the two stood on the corner of 5th Avenue and F Street. Jim said he wanted to build a restaurant there and invite their musician friends.
Former Croce's host Eric Poulsen remembers a very different downtown then. He came back Tuesday night for one last round.
“The Gaslamp was still a little rough. I used to have to call the cops quite a bit,” Poulsen said.
Whether it was just Jim joking or a real ambition, Ingrid made Croce's happen. Inside the restaurant, photographs and memories of her late husband are prominently displayed.
“It's really about the people, the community of people that we've been able to draw to this neighborhood. It's pretty spectacular,” Ingrid said.
New Year's Eve was fitting for Croce’s farewell party. In 2014, Ingrid is opening a new restaurant in Bankers Hill.
The next tenant for the vacancy left by Croce's has yet to be named, but Ingrid says the building owner is negotiating with another restaurant that will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner
“It will have a little hole in its heart without us," Croce said. "But it's is going to make it just fine,” Croce said.
The New Croce's Park West opens Jan. 19 during Restaurant Week.