Walking into Chez Loma Restaurant is like coming home.
Due in part to the name, which partially means “at the house of” in French, and in part to its location within the historical Carey-Hizar House, the restaurant provides a charming, intimate atmosphere for customers.
Chez Loma has a prime location in downtown Coronado, within walking distance of the Hotel del Coronado. It sits on Loma Avenue, a street running off of Orange Avenue which hosts other noteworthy restaurants like The Henry, and soon to be launched Blanco Cocina + Cantina.
Diego Girault, general manager of Chez Loma, said the restaurant stands out from others on the island because of its welcoming ambiance, fitting for its christened name.
“It feels like you are at home”General Manager Diego Girault of Chez Loma
“It feels like you are at home,” Girault said. “The restaurant has been here a long time and we build good relationships with every customer that comes in; we know every customer by name.”
The French windows, quaint upstairs dining room, Victorian style architecture and candlelit table settings contribute to the restaurant’s European inspired character.
Manager as high school junior
Girault expanded evening dining to include the upstairs when he became the manager of Chez Loma in 2020.
At the time, he was only a junior in high school.
His dad, Andres Girault, became the owner of the restaurant in 2008, when he purchased it with partner Alex Martinez.
Over the years, Diego has been intricately involved with all aspects of Chez Loma.
He started as a busser and worked his way up to manager by the time he was 17.
Girault was balancing high school classes, managing a restaurant during the pandemic and playing varsity tennis for Coronado High School.
Along with the negative effects that the pandemic had on the restaurant industry, came one positive spin for Chez Loma — Girault could do his classes over zoom from the restaurant.
During this time, Girault worked to sustain Chez Loma during the pandemic and rebuild it with the help of Miguel Martinez, longtime employee and line cook.
In addition to opening the upstairs for dining, they remodeled the kitchen to ensure top of the line hygiene, and they expanded the wine list and hired new servers.
“There were a lot of inexperienced people working as servers, so now, to be a server here it means a lot,” Girault said. “We were able to have very strict guidelines on how to make sure every guest that sits down is treated correctly. They are paying good money to be here; they need to feel welcomed.”
Girault said he hired two key players who contributed to Chez’s successful rebuild, bartender Rachid Elazzouzi and executive chef Dustin Pestano.
Originally from Morocco, Elazzouzi has been in California for five years.
He has 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry in virtually every position, and he has been bartending at Chez Loma for two years.
Elazzouzi used his extensive knowledge of wine to help expand the list since Girault was not yet 21. He said he enjoys the dynamic between employees.
“We rely on integrity,” Elazzouzi said. “We know how to do it right and we do it.”
Dustin Pestano, executive chef, said their menu incorporates old school French techniques with fresh, seasonal ingredients, along with dishes inspired from a variety of cultures.
Pestano has been in the restaurant industry for 20 years.
He went to Le Cordon Bleu in Los Angeles in 2009 and in 2014 won Guy’s Grocery Games, a TV show in which four chefs compete with ingredients from a supermarket. He also was a private celebrity chef for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and still cooks for high end private events.
Customers can look forward to the spring menu where he will begin introducing new dishes in March.
They are also refreshing the restaurant to open for brunch in addition to their dinner service from 5 to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 5 to 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Chez Loma won a few Best of Coronado Island awards in 2022— silver in wine selection and seafood and gold in fine dining and desserts.
“The community has a lot to do with the success of the restaurant, since we rely a lot on regulars,” Elazzouzi said. “We see a lot of the same faces and it’s what keeps this restaurant doing as good as it’s doing.”