CI Lighthouse will be Don Coqui

Jimmy Rodriquez is back

The famous restaurateur who made his name with the famous Jimmy’s Bronx Cafe a decade ago is returning to the Bronx – and City Island.

He will be partnering with the owners of The Lighthouse there to redo it into the latest of his chain of Latin-themed Don Coqui restaurants.

“I’m coming back to the Bronx ten years after the absence of Jimmy’s Bronx Cafe,” said Rodriguez.

The original Jimmy’s Bronx Cafe drew a host of politicians, sports figures, musicians and other celebrities, including Fidel Castro and Bill Clinton.

Rodriguez said in a phone interview that while he’s hoping to attract some personalities, the new restaurant will be open seven days a week, geared toward a dining crowd, with some live music and karaoke – but not a nightclub atmosphere.

After his first Bronx effort, Rodriquez went on to open a number of other popular restaurants around the Bronx and the city, including Jimmy’s City Island, Jimmy’s Uptown in Harlem, Sofrito on E. 57th St. in Manhattan, and Don Coqui in Astoria, Queens. Some of them closed, while others changed hands.

But during his heyday, the city tabloids nicknamed the suave, handsome and personable Rodriguez “The Latin Toots Shor.”

He and two daughters most recently have been running two Don Coquis in Westchester County – in New Rochelle and White Plains.

“This is a return to the Bronx for me, after ten years,” said Rodriguez, who had been actively looking for a Bronx location.

“A lot of people in the Bronx don’t travel to Westchester, to our restaurants there,” he said, “and we got a lot of emails over the years asking ‘When are you coming back to the Bronx?’ So we wanted to find a place in the borough.”

He said he had also looked at a potential location in Morris Park, at 900 Morris Park Ave. and in the Hutch Metro Center, “before an investor led me to City Island and The Lighthouse.”

He noted that there currently are no Latin restaurants on the island, while 70% of those who come to the island to dine “are Latin or black – urban folk, where they can enjoy enjoy paella, arroz con pollo and other popular dishes.”

The new restaurant will be a family affair, with daughters Jaleene, 27, Jewelle, 25, and son Jimmy III, 20, involved in the day-to-day operation.

“I’ll be on the creative end and overseeing it,” said the elder Rodriquez, who plans to change the basic look of the restaurant, “with a new decor, banquets, menus, lighting and other changes.”

“We’re elminating a lot and bringing in everything new,” said Rodriguez, who is hoping for a Jan. 26 grand opening. “I’m so excited to be back in the Bronx!”

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