Hi, I’m Ingrid Croce and Thyme in a Bottle is my life story in a cookbook.
It is filled with the recipes, friends, and opportunities I experienced for
building a family and a home that magically found itself taking the form of a restaurant.
In Thyme in a Bottle, I go back and try to figure out how that all happened.
I start at the ethnic epicenter of south Philadelphia where I grew up with
people who were as passionate about Sinatra and linguine as they were about
politics and religion. This “hotbed” of humanity is where my love for food,
family, and hard work began, sixteen years before I met and married Jim
From the moment Jim and I fell in love, good food and music graced every
facet and nearly every moment of our lives. Through the folk movement of
the sixties, we promoted our Capitol album Jim and Ingrid Croce, often
playing for our suppers in small clubs and eating our way across the country
from college concerts and collard greens to Maine lobster at The “Ship’s
Fare” in Maine.
When our music failed to get acclaim, we moved to the country, where Jim
drove a ten-wheeler and I planted zucchini and thyme. In between writing
“You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” “Operator,” and “I’ll Have to Say I Love
You in a Song” there were blueberry blintzes, homemade gnocchi, and
squash-blossom frittatas to be enjoyed. And then the greatest gift of all,
our son Adrian James, came to us, just two short years before Jim Croce
topped the music charts and his plane crashed in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
When Jim died in 1973, his music played on and his words “There never seems
to be enough time to do the things you want to do” rang even truer than
While I was busy raising our son and protecting Jim’s and my music rights in
court, I kept trying to clarify and redefine my personal vision for family
and a home. With no road maps to guide me, I followed many circuitous
routes. I sang my own songs, opened a school, and even sat on the board of
the Woman’s Bank.
Then using my heart and my stomach, I surfed south to Costa Rica with Adrian
James, to polenta con natilla and mango pie. From Blinchiki and Stroganoff
in Leningrad, to pizza and spaghetti alla Bolognese, street vendors and
five-star chefs blessed our palates.
After A.J. took his rites of passage at the Wailing Wall, I did my darnedest
to run off the hummus and falafel at the Stockholm Marathon. I was still
blindly following my dream.
In 1985, unable to sing after a failed vocal chord operation, I was looking
for a good job with good people and a worthwhile, fun place to work. The
result was Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar, which I opened as a tribute to Jim
Croce and his music, and as a stage for our son to practice and play his
Little did I know back then that my hard work in building our restaurant and
bars would lead me to my wonderful husband, Jimmy Rock. Or that my work as
a restaurateur would finally impart to me a powerful opportunity to do all
the things I loved to do best: serve, eat, and toast to good times and
In the end, Croce’s was my prize. My business passionately stoked my
entrepreneurial spirit and at the same time embodied my vision for my family
and community in a wonderfully ordinary way. While it was hard work, there
was a lot of love at Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar, and no limit to the
good people, food, and entertainment we were able to bring to our everyday
In my autobiographical cookbook my life stories, garnered over five decades,
was punctuated by meals that nourished and encouraged me along the way. My
recipes are a collaboration of kind friends, generous chefs, and family
traditions that have been enjoyed at Croce’s and served in our home.
Thyme in a Bottle tells how my dream came true. It brings us to the hearth
of Croce’s, where in addition to feeding the tummy, we enhanced the spirit
and offered times that were not “saved in a bottle” but enjoyed in the moment with family and friends.