By Maria Isabel Cubillo
Former East Los Angeles College student Josefina Lopez opened Casa Fina Restaurant and Cantina in Boyle Heights on Friday. Free tacos, aguas frescas and cake were served from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“The food was so delicious. Everyone was really nice and kind,” said Lizette Palominos, a resident of Boyle Heights.The restaurant will host stand-up comedy nights, open mic nights, bohemian nights, and karaoke nights.
Emmanuel Deleage and Alonzo Ricardo are also co-owners and attended the opening of Casa Fina. Ricardo has known Lopez’s husband for nine years, and Casa Fina is his eighth restaurant. He opened his first restaurant, Great Mex, in 2002.
Lopez was live on KPFK’s Pocho Hour of Power on Friday at 3pm. She talked about having a night event with the Pocho Hour of Power crew.
Lopez attended East Los Angeles College in the Spring semester of 1990, 1992 and 1993. During her time in college she had to withdraw four times because she was unable to get financial aid until she got her U.S. residency.
Her parents did not support her because they did not think education was important. Rocio Hernandez, Boyle Heights Area Director for Council member Jose Huizar, presented congratulatory certificate to Lopez.
Lopez said, “The arts are not a luxury,” referring to her endeavor in community playhouse Casa 0101.
Deleage said one of the reasons the restaurant was started was to diversify the sources of funding for the theater Casa 0101. Lopez said she wants to have a for-profit restaurant to help the nonprofit Casa 0101.
In 2000, Lopez opened Casa 0101 theater to bring arts to the Boyle Heights area. Augustin Alvarez, restaurant executive chef, met Josefina through Alonzo Ricardo.
He learned to cook in Acapulco, Mexico and in the United States. His forte, Ricardo said, are seafood, fajitas, and molcajete. Alvarez said Casa 0101 and the restaurant Casa Fina are a good combination.
He said Josefina and her husband are very sociable and they fit well in the business. “I am very excited with this new project and I think it is going to be a success.” Alvarez said in Spanish. “(It is) always good to support local business,” Jose Angel Torres, an attendee, said.
He knows Lopez from Casa 0101. Mariachi Las Colibrí, a femaleonly musical group, performed for the attendees inside the restaurant. “I am very proud of Josefina. She has done great work in Boyle Heights. She is always reminding us of how Boyle Heights is a creative and vibrant immigrant community,” Beatriz Ochoa, Casa 0101 Board Member, said.
Ochoa has been friends with Lopez for almost two decades. They met as adults though they lived in the same neighborhood. The restaurant is also a gallery, Juan Solis, artist, has known Lopez for 15 years.
He said she has been a collector of his work. His artwork will be in the restaurant on a permanent basis. “(I am) very thankful to Josefina for giving me the opportunity to showcase my work in her restaurant,” Solis said.
Solis also mentioned that when there are art events in the restaurant he will be present. He said there are plans to have live painting night events where community members will be invited to come and paint.
Solis has participated in events of Casa 0101. Lopez said the prices will be affordable for Boyle Heights residents.
The previous restaurant Serenata El Garibaldi was known for being expensive.
Barbara Romero, Deputy Mayor for city services of city of Los Angeles, said she did not afford food at El Garibaldi until she graduated from college. Casa Fina is open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.