Ready to know more about San Diego?


The Inspiring Story of Parakeet Cafe in Little Italy

Carol Roizen Goldwasser and her husband Jonathan's cafe was born out of a desperate need to protect their family
Kimberly Motos
Farro Bowl - Parakeet Cafe

Farro Bowl – Parakeet Cafe

Kimberly Motos

I’m sitting with Carol Roizen Goldwasser in Parakeet Cafe, her and her husband Jonathan’s modest cafe of strenuously healthy food in Little Italy. It’s raining, the people in here look shell shocked and nutritive. The city is awash and broken.

As Carol gets us coffee and a green juice, a restaurateur I’m supposed to meet with later calls to say his place is flooded, a cook has called in sick, and he must reschedule. Most transplanted Portlandians will tell you that it’s easy to live in the rain and San Diegans’ weather skin is too thin and brittle. They are wrong.

Our city was built for crushing drought, not skyfall. Carol shares the story of Parakeet. How her daughter Michelle got very, very sick when she was young, developed tumors in her lungs and skull. How the family lived in Mexico City at the time.

“We were going through so many clinical trials and monitoring her iron counts and things like that,” she remembers. “I started researching food that would help her deficiencies. Since she was so young, I could control everything that went into her body. I noticed differences. I want to believe that helped her. So that’s how the story began with healthy food.”

Roizen would take her daughter to Houston for treatment. She realized that while she could afford to travel to help her daughter, many back in Mexico City could not. So she started working in Mexico City’s health department, became a link between the government and children’s health. Frustrated by the bureaucracy, she went to culinary school.

“There is no amount of money in the world that can heal disease,” she explains. “We need to prevent it.”

The altitude and air pollution of Mexico City were too much for Michelle, so Carol and Jonathan moved to San Diego, and focused on healthy juices, eventually expanding into food as customers asked for it. Parakeet Cafe was born out of that.

San Diego native and Tijuana-raised chef, Adria Marina—who was a star on this year’s Top Chef VIP, a Mexican spinoff of the famed TV show—helped consult on the menu.

They opened five years ago. Both Michelle and Parakeet are thriving, with three locations across San Diego. When you come, order the power bowl (roasted veggies, sunny eggs—but the key is a spicy labneh, which is basically the best yogurt on the planet).

Despite my making fun of avocado toast over my career because I see it as a half-finished sandwich, theirs is very good with serrano peppers, pickled mustard seeds, pepitas, and beet spirals. And for a treat, get the vegan, gluten-free, no-refined-sugar banana oat muffin.

“For me it was so important to share what I’ve learned,” Carol says. “We didn’t know anything about the restaurant business, we were just passionate.”

I’m currently working my way through Little Italy looking for the best things to eat and the passion of people behind them. Like Carol and Parakeet. Come join me. Send me an email and tell me your favorite.

By Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA