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All About Food: Turning over a Greenleaf

May 23, 2012|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • The baked sweet potato fries at the Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop are a perfect side dish.
The baked sweet potato fries at the Greenleaf Gourmet… (DON LEACH, HB Independent )

Costa Mesa's 17th Street is full of mini-malls and teeming with traffic. So, finding Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop in an old hacienda-like building surrounded by lush greenery is like discovering an oasis in the desert.

Jonathan Rollo has brought his healthy, casual dining concept to Orange County this month after getting rave reviews for his two Los Angeles-area locations.

In Jonathan's own words, "Our restaurants allow you to choose to be as healthy as you want to be."

He has an extensive background in the restaurant industry, starting with culinary school and later working as a chef at Patina, where he first met Kristi Ritchey, who is now his executive chef. Jonathan's interest in healthy food was motivated by the fact that some of his family had serious health issues.

Kristi had her own issue with obesity. She grew up in western Pennsylvania, where vegetables are seemingly not the basis of the food pyramid. Kristi lost 110 pounds over three years by changing her eating habits.

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"Eating healthy is a lifestyle, not a diet," she says.

Both Jonathan and Kristi, while advocating healthy eating, stress that their food must also taste delicious.

Salad is Greenleaf's signature offering. You can choose from seven types of greens, 16 grilled meat and nonmeat additions, and about 75 toppings, including nuts, cheese, fruit, veggies, beans and herbs.

Mix it all up with one of 17 dressings. If all those choices make your head spin, there is a substantial selection of tried-and-true specialty salads, from the Kitchen Sink Cobb to the Anti-oxidant Orchard. "Chopshop" is Jonathan's way of bringing it all together.

"We will chop and toss until you say stop," he says.

The menu is rounded out with thin-crust pizzas made with a tortilla base, sandwiches, paninis and hot entrées that come with a choice of two sides.

Jonathan and Kristi are always working together to create high-quality imaginative recipes and are committed to using only the freshest all-natural, organic and local ingredients.

The large restaurant is extremely attractive; it has a rustic, airy, clean feeling. High ceilings with wood rafters, lots of big windows and old barnwood accents create a pleasant, casual ambience. There is an open kitchen with a long marble counter and white tile walls.

The exterior is equally attractive, with its large covered dining porch with a wooden rail fence in front. In the rear is a courtyard filled with mature trees and lush landscaping, where there is another lovely dining area.

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