Coronado’s Primavera Still Going Strong At 30; Special Evening Planned - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Home And Business

Coronado’s Primavera Still Going Strong At 30; Special Evening Planned

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2019 2:49 pm

It is a true accomplishment for a restaurant to stay in business for 30 years while at the same time being owned by the same family. Cristos and Jeanette Stavros opened Primavera Ristorante in 1989 and although Cristos has passed away, his daughter Denise Stavros has taken the reins of the business ensuring the quality of the restaurant has continued.

Cristos Stavros was a born businessman who opened and bought a number of businesses in Point Loma and Coronado. Although in Coronado he is known as the owner of Primavera Ristorante, he first bought the business when it was called Secret Harbor, a Navy bar eventually transforming it into Primavera.

Cristos’ many businesses included Chris’ Liquor in Ocean Beach, Victor’s Liquor followed by Bottle Barn in Loma Portal. After purchasing the Secret Harbor on Orange Avenue, an old- fashioned Navy bar with pool tables, lots of dark wood and squadron plaques on the wall, darts and Pac-Man machines, another business came up for sale that interested him. “The Bottle Shop across the street came up for sale and the next thing I knew, he bought it,” said his wife Jeanette Stavros. Cristos next bought the Island Saloon at Orange Avenue and First Street which was called Fleas, now in the current location of Nicky Rottens.

Denise recalls working at the Bottle Shop as a teenager. “I worked mostly as a cashier. Dad wanted me to balance the books, do the payroll and the financial operations,” she said. When Cristos a few years later opened Primavera Bakery a few doors down from Primavera Ristorante Denise was involved with the business from the start from creating recipes to running the café.

Cristos ran the Secret Harbor for 14 years before deciding to transform the business into a restaurant. When he decided to open a fine dining restaurant he and Janette visited a number of restaurants in New York City and San Francisco to get ideas. “When we made it into a restaurant, we expanded the back and built the upstairs. In Coronado there weren’t nice restaurants in those days, just the hotel, and he went with his gut feeling and thought the timing was right,” said Jeanette.

The Stavros worked with Sheryll Jackman of the Jackman Group of Coronado for the design of the restaurant and they were pleased with the results. “It’s only 27 feet across and they did an amazing job,” said Jeanette. While the couple owned the Secret Harbor, Jeanette was not involved in the business and only remembers going to the bar a few times, but once Cristos started planning the restaurant he told her “I need you,” recalls Jeanette. So she rolled up her sleeves and started helping with the many aspects of the restaurant from the design to the menu. The Stavros then decided to create a private room above the restaurant for private parties and receptions they called the Tuscan Room. Over the years, Primavera has earned a great reputation as a high-end restaurant with quality food and service.

While some things have changed to keep up with the times - the waiters don’t wear tuxedos - other things have stayed the same like the service, which is still the best. On the other hand, the menu has not changed much and there is a good reason for that. “If we took [some dishes] that are original off the menu we’d have unhappy customers,” said Denise. But the way the menu has changed is in more subtle ways. “We have changed into a lighter cuisine, with the freshest ingredients from locally owned farms; we try and cater to the gluten- free customers and support local suppliers. We keep the dishes light and we sell a lot of fish. We have always offered two different fish every night,” she said. “Our waiters wore tuxedos until a couple of years ago, but over time we had to make a change. We didn’t want to be known as a special occasion restaurant, didn’t want people to be intimated.” When Primavera Ristorante first opened, it served lunch and Cristos often worked as the host while Jeanette would do the same at dinner. Denise was also a hostess at times until she became involved with Primavera Bakery.

Cristos, who passed away five years ago, had taken a lesser role in the restaurant for the last few years of his life while his grandson, Joey, was the manager. “He’d come over once a week and have dinner with mom every Tuesday,” recalled Denise. The couple dined at Table 5 which became known as “the owners’ table.’ Long-time customers remember those days and still specifically request that table.

Once Denise’s son decided to leave the business seven years ago she took over the operations and two years ago she led a remodel of the restaurant. Although the floor plan stayed the same, the restaurant was freshened up with new upholstery, paint, and artwork making it more current. The Stavros were also able to purchase the land the restaurant sits on nine years ago.

Denise is always happy to see long time customers who started dining at the restaurant since the very beginning who now come back with their grandchildren.

Denise is very busy running the restaurant and even though she is not often at the front of the house she takes care of many aspects of the business from marketing and social media, to ordering supplies and food items to working on the menu. “As far as the operations end of it, I teach the employees that the first impression is the last impression…My dad’s big emphasis was that the customers leave with a great dining experience not just have a great meal or great service. That has a lot to do with our success. Making customers feel special, calling them by name,” said Denise.

The restaurant has received many accolades and awards and a 4.5 out of 5 Zagat rating. “Our reputation is very important to us,” said Denise. “This was his dream of all dreams. He was really proud of this place,” said Jeanettte. “I’m only carrying on what my mom and dad started…It’s quite empowering to know I was the one to continue and be successful. My dad would say ‘I knew you had it in you,’ ” said Denise.

Primavera will host a special dinner on June 25 to celebrate its 30th anniversary with proceeds going to 22KILL, a non-profit organization for suicide prevention in military personnel. Denise lost her son Gregory to suicide last year and this cause is close to her heart and she chose KILL22 because of the many military personnel in Coronado. “Sadly suicide is the no. 2 killer in people 35 and younger,” she said.

The special evening will feature a five course dinner which can be viewed online at and the price is $85. Reservations can also be made online.

“What I love about us is that it’s been family owned for the last 30 years and still going strong. It’s an accomplishment, especially as an independent restaurant owner,” said Denise.

Primavera Ristorante, 932 Orange Avenue. Call (619) 435-0454 or log on

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