Battery Park City resident Roberta Souza, 30, already is an owner of two restaurants on Pearl Street and just opened another restaurant at 23rd Street and Third Avenue. Souza, who was born to a single mother in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, came to New York at the age of 17. Her mother, Antonia, a chef, had preceded her here.
“The first thing I did was go to school to learn English,” said Souza. She also got a job as a coat checker at a midtown restaurant called Giovanni’s. Next she enrolled at Borough of Manhattan Community College, where she studied business management. During college, she continued to work as a coat checker, this time at Beckett’s in the Financial District.
Ronan Downs, who owns Beckett’s, “believed in me,” said Souza. He kept promoting her. By the time she was 25, she was managing another of Downs’ restaurants, the Stone Street Tavern. At 26, in partnership with Downs and Alex Ramirez, she opened her own restaurant, Burger Burger, at 77 Pearl St.
At the time, Goldman Sachs’ headquarters was right across the street, and Souza said that Burger Burger was an instant success. Next came Pizza Pizza, also on Pearl Street.
In March, Souza in partnership with Downs and with the owners of Mad Dog and Beans, also on Pearl Street, opened Tap Room 307, which serves 42 kinds of draft beer from all over the world. “My life is work,” Souza said, but she seems to relish it.
“I’m trying to create an empire!” she said. She wasn’t kidding.
Read more from Downtown Express.