If you are throwing a retirement bash billed as "Berkeley Loves Mario and Rosalinda" (Tejada)—Berkeley had better mean it.
Boy, did Berkeley mean it, as hundreds jammed Mario's La Fiesta, next to Amoeba on Haste Thursday night for a lavish spread, free bar, and Mariachi band to pour out its heart to South side Berkeley's favorite couple.
Celebrants, one-by-one told Mario, 81, and Rosalinda, 79 what Mario's La Fiesta restaurant has meant to them in 52 years of serving Telegraph Avenue.
Many of the celebrants, who have grown old with the Tejadas, were saying goodbye to whole chunks of their lives. Memories flowed in the warm glow of a room filled with
Mexican masks, musical instruments, and paintings.
These items moved with Mario's on Teley when it moved a half block to Haste two years ago.
Chris Ramer, 76, along with a U.C. student from El Salvador, was the first waitress (other than family members) for Mario's when it opened in 1959. Teary eyed when she left, Ramer said "Part of my life is gone."
Kriss Worthington, 14 year District 7 city councilman wrote in the Tejadas' retirement guestbook: "Thank you for all of the positive energy you have both brought to the neighborhood and the city. Two beautiful people doing a lot of beautiful things."
The send-off was financed by the Telegraph Business Improvement District. New Owner, Manny Lopez, 43, a former owner of Manny's Tap Room and a former manager at Raleigh's also contributed.
South siders could not remember a more impressive event.
Food included such items as sliced smoked salmon, cream cheese, baguettes, four giant cakes, and tea pastries.
The estimated bill: $2000. Coffee, although not as popular as the draft beer, wines, and cocktails was provided by Cafe Mediterraneum.
Roland Peterson, 53, spokesman for the events' sponsors wrote to the Tejadas: "You have been two of the most wonderful members of our community."
Mario Jr. 50, and his sister Rosalinda, neither of whom is in the food business, but grew up in the restaurant, told of being called into service at midnight Wednesday for an all nighter to help their Dad prepare 11,000 burritos, and seven dozen enchiladas for two groups at Cal. "We went out with a bang," Mario Jr. boasted.
The event was scheduled to end at 8p, but at 8:45 stragglers straggled . Ending was prolonged.
Mario headed for the walk for still more conversation. As he walked alone through the semi-lit entranceway to Mario's, he said to no one in particular: "I don't own the restaurant, anymore." There was a note of wonderment in his softly intoned words.
New Owner, Lopez, had the last word. "I face the challenge of taking over for a legend," he lamented. He plans to keep most of the basic Mario's offerings but to up-date the menu with specialties reflecting contemporary tastes.
He plans to re-open in no more than four days ( with Mario's help) as Remy's Mexican Restaurant. Although the Daily Cal reported that Mario's staff will be retained by Manny, that turns out to be untrue. Manny says he must, by law, start hiring from scratch. Some but not all of Mario's loyal crew will remain.
Mariachi Los Michoacanos, a spirited group, which performed Thursday and has performed regularly on weekends at Mario's, will continue for Manny.
Although Mario and Rosalinda are looking forward to hanging out with their grand kids and their own children say they want their parents back after years of watching them work 24-7, Mario and Rosalinda have offered to help Manny if he needs them.
Expect to see some new faces—even Mario's or Rosalinda's—when you stop into Remy's/Mario's to begin a new chapter of Berkeley history.
Ted Friedman lived on big $1.00 bags of Mario-Rosalinda's fresh homemade tortilla chips in the 'Seventies.