Gerard Bozoghlian – Carlitos Gardel Restaurant

Gerard Bozoghlian Carlitos Gardel Restaurant MelroseRestaurateur Profile: Gerard Bozoghlian

Co-Owner: Carlitos Gardel Restaurant

7963 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, Ca 90046

http://carlitosgardel.com
Yelp: 4.5 stars

Interview Date: Monday, April 26, 2010

Carlitos Gardel Restaurant was founded out of love … and a little bit of homesickness. The Bozoghlian family moved to Los Angeles from Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1991. “We were a little homesick,” says Gerard Bozoghlian. “In Argentina we have a huge family – every weekend there is someone’s birthday, christening, or wedding, and we didn’t have any of that activity here.” So the family set out to create a family business that represented the best of Argentine cuisine and the sense of a large family.

The restaurant was opened in 1996 with the goal of “representing Argentina in the best way possible,” says Gerard. “We wanted to create a place where Americans and Argentineans can come to get authentic Argentine food while still catering to the sophisticated palate of Los Angeles.” The restaurant is owned by the family of five:

  1. Father Carlos was a successful businessman in Argentina and now takes care of the books and administration for Carlitos Gardel
  2. Mother Azniv is a pastry chef who went to culinary school “for fun” in Argentina and is the cornerstone of the kitchen operations
  3. Brother Max is a certified sommelier who manages the restaurant’s extensive wine list
  4. Brother Rodrigo was involved in the opening of the restaurant, but he now practices law and lends his legal expertise to the restaurant when needed
  5. Gerard’s specialty is front-of-house operations – managing the employees, service and training for the restaurant
Carlitos Gardel Restaurant

Photos in the restaurant showing the extended family the Bozoghlian family has established in Los Angeles

“Nothing is more rewarding than providing people a great value, a great experience,” says Gerard. “We have established a relationship with our guests. Instead of worrying about the quantity of guests we serve, we focus on the quality of our food, wine and relationships.” This approach is reflected in the restaurant’s excellent Yelp rating (4.5 stars). “We want to create a Mom & Pop approach in a refined restaurant, and at the heart of our business is the relationship we have with our guests,” says Gerard.

The family went into the restaurant business with no retail or restaurant experience. Carlos’ business was in licensing, manufacturing and distribution, and although Azniv is an accomplished pastry chef, she had not worked professionally in a kitchen until they opened Carlitos Gardel. The experience they did have, however, was in dining. “The dining room was always a priority in my house,” says Gerard. “We have an instinctual understanding for running a dining room – we had to learn how to run a kitchen and a restaurant business.”

The only significant challenge in opening and building Carlitos Gardel, according to Gerard, has been educating Americans about Argentine food while also meeting Argentinean guests’ expectations of authenticity. “At one point, our challenge was importing a culture that is not predominant in this city,” he says. “Mexican restaurants have an obvious place here, and there are a lot of Brazilians, but there are not many Argentines.” In addition to consistently providing authentic food at the restaurant, Max has become a nationally-recognized expert and leader in the Argentine wine movement, which has been gradually gaining popularity, supporting the restaurant by affiliation. Every year, Max returns to Argentina for the grape harvest, and the restaurant’s wine list offers possibly the most extensive selection of Argentine wines in California.

It seems as if the Bozoghlian family has effectively managed its homesickness – by creating a friendly, quality restaurant, they now have a LA family.  And, of course, they still have their Argentine family as well. “With 23 first cousins, we are constantly between countries,” says Gerard. “Someone is always going back to attend a wedding or baptism.”

Who is Carlitos Gardel? A cultural icon known as the “voice of tango.”

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