By Shawn Spencer
I have never wanted to be wrong, more.
The latest and not-so greatest rumor in Old Town is that Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant is closing its doors permanently. Social media is ablaze with comments, arguments, sadness and dismay. When I spoke with Rudy, this morning, he was adamant about not discussing it. So adamant, that I feel guilty even writing about it. I love Rudy. I love his family. They are lovely and amazing people. So, with that being said, there was really no way I could not write about them.
Rutilio “Rudy” Castrellon left Zacatecas, Mexico when he was only 15 years old, due to the depression that hit Mexico. Rudy came to the San Gabriel Valley in an effort to provide for his family. He started working at Northwoods Inn on Rosemead.
He started as a dishwasher, working his way up to assistant cook, then the broiler man in charge of cooking the steaks. Wanting to do more, to do better, Rudy began studying nursing at Rio Hondo College. He was only 17 years old. In 1975, he completed the program and started working at the Episcopal Home in Alhambra, which is where he met his beautiful wife, Rosa. Rudy was working as a nurse and waiting tables in a Mexican restaurant in Arcadia. Still wanting to do more, Rudy & Rosa saved and sacrificed to start a family business. Start a family business, they did!
Named Rudy’s, because it was easier for us gringos to pronounce than Rutilio’s, their family business opened to much success. The walls are decorated with Mexican art, pictures of Zacatecan celebrities and a mural that depicts his mother in the pueblo where he grew up. During the years, Rudy has contributed to our community in so many ways. He served on MOTAB (Monrovia Old Town Advisory Board) for years. He was the President of the Cinco de Mayo Association and was responsible for bringing an official celebration to Old Town.
He has donated and supported more local causes than I can count. Rudy’s was also the first restaurant to offer a menu, printed in Braille, which was created by local resident and long-time patron Mason Fessenden. Rudy was awarded the Monroe Award for Business Person of the Year, the Social Responsibility Award from the California State Assembly and was recognized in other countless ways. Rudy is still actively supporting Zacatecas through a social club he started and other community projects.
There are many reasons to be so proud of Rudy and so happy to have him as part of our community. Let’s not forget his movie star status. In 2014, a documentary about his life was filmed. “Rutilio: The Success Story of Rutilio ‘Rudy’ Castrellon in the USA” profiles the life of this amazing man from childhood immigration and his various stages of sacrifice on his road to success. I saw it at the Krikorian and was amazed by his story.
Since Rudy would neither confirm nor deny the rumors, I can only say cheers, to you, Rudy & family! Whatever path you next take, may it bring you as much joy as you have given to so many of us over the years. ¡Gracias por los recuerdos!
We have updated the headline with the word “possible,” as it can neither be confirmed nor denied that Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant will be closing.