History of Cafe Roma on the Island:
Cafe Roma, an open windowed setting, upstairs at 1-C Cruz Bay, was first opened in the very early eighties. It served the only Italian food and pizza on St. John. Joshlynn Crosley, the former owner, bought Cafe Roma in 1988 from the McGinnis family. Gradually Cafe Roma has changed; as it was tiled, the windows were closed, and air-conditioning was added. In the summer of 1995, a mural was painted by Ted Effremoff (a Russian artist, now teacher, in Philadelphia) with scenes of Italy. In 2003 Helen Lalitch changed one panel to a more ethereal scene with Romanesque angels, and symbols for peace on earth.
John Hiebert, his wife Michelle- who is originally from Trinidad, and daughters Ashley and Victoria purchased the restaurant from Josh and moved to the islands after living in Vermont in 2008. Although John gave the restaurant a slight makeover and renovation, he understood that Cafe Roma is a local’s favorite and a landmark restaurant on St John. “The restaurant isn’t broken, so it doesn’t need any fixin'”. John fell in love with the food and quirky atmosphere. Cafe Roma offers and intends to maintain it’s image for years to come. John has many years of experience in the food service industry. He is a talented Chef and has owned and managed many restaurants in the states. John and Michelle look forward to becoming part of the island community, and to continue cooking innovative Italian dishes and specialty pizzas for the thousands of loyal patrons who have been visiting the restaurant for over 30 years.
“Everyone visiting St. John must stop in for something scrumptious in this little Italian Café.”
On April 21, 2013 a huge fire destroyed Cafe Roma. On the 23rd wedding anniversary of owners John and Michelle. During the mid-afternoon hours, while the restaurant was closed, a fire erupted in the ceiling Employee’s from neighboring Castatway’s and Woody’s jumped into action, and tried to extinguish the fire with garden hoses until the local fire department arrived on the scene. At 5:30 pm the fire department notified John and Michelle, who had earlier arrived from St Thomas, that the restaurant was a complete loss. Thankfully, no-one sustained any injuries.
Due to insurance complications, nothing inside the building was covered. John received no insurance money.
The local and international community jumped into action. Through donations, fundraisers, and support from friends and family, Cafe Roma was able to rebuild. On January 2, 2014 the Hiebert’s reopened their quaint island Italian restaurant. Muralist from the original Cafe Roma, Helen Eltis, inspirationally created a new mural on the walls and ceiling. Local builder, Maurice Smith, hand crafted a large mahogany bar, cabinetry, and wine rack.
In may 2013 Cafe Roma/John Hiebert was presented a “Certificate of Congressional Recognition” for winning the VI SBDC St John Small Business of the Year award.