The French white chocolate Berry Bliss Bar by Romeo Chocolates. Image courtesy Romeo Chocolates.

For some, it might be tough to remember a time when Romeo Chocolates wasn’t situated on Historic Pine Avenue in Downtown. But well before owner Romeo Garcia settled down in his first brick-and-mortar in 2017, the chef and chocolatier was setting up a few tables inside MADE by Millworks, selling the artisan chocolates he had made at home.

Now the small business is going back to its roots with a new pop-up at the outdoor urban eatery Steelcraft in Bixby Knolls. For the next three months, until May 31, locals can stop by the outdoor business center, identifiable by its use of shipping containers as the structures, and take home a curated selection of handcrafted chocolate bars, Belgian style seashells, prepackaged truffles, and gift boxes. The popular treat among kiddos, “emergency” chocolates made of milk or dark chocolate shaped like turtles or seashells, will also be in stock.

“We want to be as accessible as possible and promise to make it easy for all of our customers to fall in love with chocolate, just as I did 14 years ago,” Garcia said of his new, temporary pop-up.

Garcia got his start in the world of chocolate while taking weekend cooking classes in San Francisco. He said he became so fond of the craft he left his fast-paced job as an interim dean at Coastline Community College in Fountain Valley to pursue this new creative career.  Nearly 17 years later, he hasn’t looked back.

Chocolatier Romeo O. Garcia at his shop, Romeo Chocolates, in Downtown Long Beach Tuesday, February 2, 2019. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.

Garcia uses ethically sourced cacao and chocolate from around the world to make his European-centric treats, particularly modeled after Belgium truffle-making traditions and use of higher cacao ratios. Usually when you reach for a Belgium chocolate, it’s dark and delightfully bitter. Of course, there are a few nods to the French white chocolates with Romeo’s decadent white chocolate berry bliss bar and Turkish apricot and toasted almonds bar.

Now of course you might be wondering, given the looming romantic holiday on the horizon, whether you can get your hands on the specialty Valentine’s Day chocolate-dipped strawberries, heart-shaped hot cocoa bombs or chewy brownies. Short answer: you can, sort of. Romeo Chocolates general manager Heather Gordon said you’ll have to order those treats that are unpackaged, like the chocolate-dipped strawberries, at their flagship store in Downtown either by pre-order online or by phone at 562-432-7999 and specify the pick-up location at either the Downtown or Steelcraft location.

Romeo Chocolate’s new pop-up at Steelcraft is located at 3768 Long Beach Blvd. and stands left of Steelhead Coffee. The shop in Bixby Knolls will be open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., though the business hours may change after Feb. 28. Romeo Chocolates in Downtown Pine is located at 460 Pine Ave.

Editors Note: Garica was an interim dean at Coastline Community College, not dean as previously reported.