In February, John and Valerie Rubino decided to open a jazz nightclub on this seaside community’s Restaurant Row.

Aside from securing a $175,000 bank loan to remodel the empty two-story building on Old Highway 101, John Rubino said the biggest concern was that people might mistake the club for just another of the half-dozen ritzy seafood restaurants that surround it.

So the couple has covered all their bases--and good.

To begin with, they have named the club Bellavia, after the breakthrough album by fluegelhornist Chuck Mangione that helped set off the whole pop-jazz explosion a decade ago.


For the club’s three-day grand opening Friday through Sunday, they have booked veteran be-bop trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, famous for his own recordings as well as his work with such veritable jazz legends as Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon and fusionist Herbie Hancock.

Although Italian food will be served downstairs, Rubino said, the chief items on Bellavia’s menu are jazz, jazz and more jazz.

Seven nights a week, a mix of local and national jazz acts will perform in the upstairs club, which seats 150.

Downstairs, more jazz bands will serenade patrons during weekday afternoon happy hours and Sunday morning brunches.


Still in the planning stage, Rubino said, are Sunday afternoon jam sessions that he hopes will attract every big jazz player in the county.

“For the last few years, North County has had a substantial void in the live jazz market,” Rubino said. “And that’s ironic, because during that same time jazz has gotten more popular than ever.

“Down in San Diego, there are plenty of clubs that feature live jazz, as well as concert series like Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay that showcase more than 50 national jazz acts every summer.

“But up here, there’s nothing, aside from us. Even before we opened, we received more than 100 phone calls from people wanting to know who we have coming in.

“That’s how starved people in North County are for jazz.”

Bellavia’s May schedule promises to satisfy many of those appetites.

After Hubbard will be a succession of one-night stands by the local jazz scene’s Big Four: saxophonist Bruce Cameron, Monday; jazz-fusion singer Ella Ruth Piggee, Tuesday; pop-jazz band Fattburger, next Wednesday, and guitarist Peter Sprague, May 8.

Other acts in May include the local jazz-fusion Bill Shrieve Quartet, pianist Les McCann, violinist Papa John Creach and saxophonist Eddie Harris.


Rubino said that, while Bellavia’s May lineup was carefully chosen to touch virtually every spectrum of jazz, he’s not yet sure whether that diversity will continue.

“To tell you the truth, we’re still in the experimental stages in regard to bookings,” Rubino said. “We’re going to have to see what flies best, what goes over and what doesn’t, and then fine-tune it.

“Already, we’re thinking that some of the more brassy jazz-fusion acts might be a little too hard for the room.

“But, again, we’re playing everything by ear. The reason we decided to start off so strong, and with such diversity, is that we wanted to make a statement.

“And that statement is that no matter what type of jazz you like, you’ll be able to find it at Bellavia.”