Alex and Leyla moved from Baku, Azerbaijan to pursue life in sunny San Diego. Initially, Leyla only baked as a hobby. The idea for Café21 came after Alex asked Leyla to bake a plate of baklava for one of their friends who owned a restaurant. The baklava was so impressive, they were asked to continue baking more to sell at the restaurant. Soon, their home kitchen evolved into a full-blown, bustling bakery, until there was no longer room to meet the demand. In 2007, Alex and Leyla opened a restaurant at 2121 Adams Avenue, appropriately named Café 2121. Later in 2007 they re-located a few blocks up Adams, and shortened their name to Café21. With a focus on fresh, local ingredients and world flavors, Café21 continued to expand and in 2011, they opened an additional location in the Gaslamp Quarter.