BY VALERIE SHELTON
The Mexican restaurant formerly known as El Quetzal officially celebrated its name change to Casa Maria with a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday.
The story behind the recent name change is heartfelt. Owner Valentin Rosas and his wife Maria Rosas took over the restaurant, located on the southeast corner of Shaw and Minnewawa in the Rodeo Plaza shopping center, after his sister passed away. El Quetzal was her passion and she had worked tirelessly at two jobs to save up enough to finally purchase the popular authentic Mexican eatery. When she passed, her baby brother Valentin—the youngest of 18—couldn’t just let the restaurant his sister worked so hard to acquire go.
“She had been working two jobs to buy the restaurant and he decided he thought it would be best if we kept continuing it because she worked so hard to open it,” Maria Rosas said.
Since taking over in recent months, Rosas said a lot has changed. The atmosphere inside and out has been completely transformed and the small but mighty staff of six boasts a new chef and a handful of new waitresses. The menu has also been upgraded to include new authentic Mexican dishes like the torta (a Mexican style sandwich with your choice of chicken, ground beef or shredded beef), the torta ahogada (a torta smothered in a wet sauce), and the tostada compuesta (a salad in a crunchy tortilla shell served with your choice of meat, along with sour cream, guacamole and a secret sauce). The quality of the meats has also been upgraded, Maria said.
With all the changes, the Rosas said it made sense to change the name as well and Valentin thought it would be best to name it after his wife, who spends so many days and evenings at the restaurant ensuring both the quality of the cuisine and the service are top notch.
“I love being around people,” Maria said. “I’m a people person so I enjoy doing this.”
Prior to partnering with her husband at the restaurant, Maria worked at Vons for 28 years. Now, she assists her husband with his landscaping business and is in charge of maintaining the books. In her free time, she hangs out at her home away from home: Casa Maria.
“My social time is right here at the restaurant,” Maria said. “I spend my lunch hours here and my dinner hours here making sure that not only the food is good but that the service is there.”
Since the name change, Maria said she has seen an influx of new customers.
“We’ve been blessed to have so much support,” she said. “After we did the change of ownership and changed the restaurant inside and outside back and brought in new cooks and waitresses, the volume of customers has gone up quite a bit. Now, I’ve noticed since we’ve done the name change we’ve got even more new people coming in.”
Casa Maria is open Tuesday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.