Roger Springall first brought the San Francisco-based regional cafe chain Caffe Trieste to San Jose in 2008. Last August, he transformed it into Caffe Frascati, an authentic Italian-style cafe named after a small town in Italy where Springall used to live.

The first and second level of the small downtown building that were once home to a pharmacy and doctor’s offices have now been combined to form a friendly, comfortable place to spend an afternoon doing work, talking to friends, or listening to live music. Caffe Frascati hosts an open mic night every Tuesday, and also provides an alternative scene to enjoy a Happy Hour.

Caffe Frascati is also a regular participant in First Fridays, displaying work by local artists and holding a live opera night with performances from members of Opera San Jose. “It’s the only place in San Jose where you can sit down, have a glass of wine and listen to some of the best opera singers singing live in a cafe,” Springall says. “It’s really good. It gets packed every time.”

Name: Roger Springall
Age: 58
Occupation: Owner of Caffe Frascati

How long have you lived/worked in San Jose?

Since 1986. So that’s 26 years.

Where did you grow up?

Oxford, England. I left in ‘78 when I was 24. I moved to Luxembourg and then never really went back.

What do you like most about San Jose?

It’s the right size and it’s in the right place. I came here to work for Apple; I’m a software guy. It’s a nice town. I like the area, I like the people here and I like the climate. It’s the perfect place to be.

How did you become involved in software?

I always knew that’s what I wanted to do. I was just lucky. I taught myself four programming languages, called myself an expert, and got a job in Europe. I’ve done everything from programming to being being a developer to CEO of a startup and everything in between.

How did you first get involved with Caffe Trieste?

I was working from home in San Jose as a software consultant, and I wanted to get out of my house because my house was my office. I wanted to go get a coffee somewhere and where I lived there were no little cafes to hang out in, so I wanted to open my own cafe. I meant working at a cafe to be a hobby and keep my real job, but it got out of control.

Where did you get inspiration to branch out from Caffe Trieste?

Caffe Trieste is a well-known cafe in San Francisco, that’s been there for over 50 years and I was happy to be associated with them, but I just wanted to be more of a local independent cafe for our customers in San Jose. We have our own coffee roaster now in San Jose. We’re not really riding on the coattails of a famous cafe in San Francisco anymore.

What did you like so much about Frascati, Italy?

It’s a little town just outside of Rome where I use to live. It’s beautiful. The area is similar to here. That’s why I like this area. It’s the same climate and it’s surrounded by vineyards. The only thing missing for me in San Jose was there was no really good Italian cafe.

Where are some of your favorite places in San Jose?

Other than here, I like the hills and trails in Almaden Valley; I go running there. And I like going to Trials pub.

If you could change one thing about San Jose, what would it be?

More people living downtown. It’s getting there, but it’s kind of slow-going. I think this year is going to make a big difference, and I think it’s picking up. We have people living in the 360 Residences and working in the Sobrato building now, and the rock climbing place is opening now. I think there’s a move in the right direction, I think there’s a good feel in downtown San Jose. It feels like something is changing.

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in San Jose?

We get so many people in here, I meet so many cool people every day. But I’d say our friends Abdi and Senayit. They run the Sainte Claire news stand. They’re a really nice couple and they’ve been here for years and years.