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Law Students Will Have More on Their Plate With New Eatery

Practicing attorney Chad Ruyle is going back to law school for his latest entrepreneurial venture.

Culinary Justice Inc., a San Diego-based entity recently formed by Ruyle and three other restaurant industry veterans, plans an early June opening for Bottega Americano, a European-style restaurant and retail marketplace that will operate on the ground floor of Thomas Jefferson School of Law in East Village.

The law school moved into its newly constructed building on Island Avenue in early 2011, after having been in Old Town. Both the law school and its new tenants view the restaurant as key to linking the school with the surrounding East Village neighborhood, which is seeing a swift influx of new residents and businesses.

Following a roughly $3 million renovation by the operators, the 8,000-square-foot space at 1195 Island Ave., near Park Boulevard, will include a moderately priced sit-down restaurant along with a “grab and go” retail area where customers can buy gourmet-style foods, with some items from the eatery’s kitchen also available for takeout.

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There will also be a bar and outdoor dining spaces. Restaurant operators have reached an agreement with the law school, under which Bottega Americano will also cater internal and public events held at the law school, including the building’s eighth-floor outdoor patio.

Healthful Food for Students, Staff

The venue, formerly used by the law school as a meeting space, will be open to the general public as well as students and staff, and Ruyle said operators are looking to arrange a program that would offer law school students discounts on food.

“We wanted to give people an alternative to a bargain market, someplace where they could pick up some healthy foods,” said Ruyle, president of Culinary Justice, who is an East Village resident.

A partner in the local law firm Ruyle & Ruyle, he earned his law degree from California Western School of Law in 2003 and has since been involved in multiple real estate and restaurant ventures, including an investment in the popular Dobson’s restaurant in downtown San Diego.

Ruyle’s partners in Bottega Americano are Giuseppe Ciuffa, founder and CEO of Giuseppe Fine Catering and Restaurants; general manager Greg Van de Velde, who has consulted on several new restaurants and previously worked at Bertrand at Mister A’s; and chef David Warner, known most recently for his work at Pacific Beach eatery JRDN.

The new restaurant and marketplace, which operators describe as having “retro Italian and European influences,” was envisioned by well-known hospitality designer Thomas Schoos, who designed several popular local restaurants including Searsucker, Herringbone and Puesto.

Connecting With Community

The hosting of a retail and restaurant establishment is a first for the independent Thomas Jefferson School of Law, which was established in 1969 and has about 900 students.

When planning the move to East Village several years ago, school officials were thinking of ways to better integrate the school with the public, including hosting more neighborhood-oriented gatherings.

“One of the goals was to have something that connected the law school with that surrounding community of East Village,” said Karin Sherr, general counsel for the law school.

The school does not have in-house catering or culinary services, and the Bottega operators will assist the school as it seeks to rent out portions of the 3-year-old building for public and private events.

Like the law school, Ruyle said restaurant operators wanted to tie into the bubbling energy of East Village, where several developers have projects underway that will bring hundreds of new apartments to the neighborhood. Corporate office move-ins were recently announced by companies such as Sempra Energy and Bumble Bee Foods LLC, and the law school is not far from the newly opened San Diego Central Library in East Village.

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