After 52 years, 2 much loved restaurateurs step down

Left to right: Mario senior, his daughter, Rosalinda, daughter Margarita, and Mario junior at the farewell fiesta. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Last night, the Telegraph Avenue community turned out in force to honor Mario and Rosalinda Tejada, owners of Mario’s La Fiesta Restaurant on Haste Street, who are stepping down after running the popular eatery for an extraordinary 52 years.

The couple’s farewell retirement party was everything you would expect from an expertly crafted Mexican fiesta — with a Mariachi band, flowing drinks, tables heaving with food, including spicy chicken, guacamole, celebratory cakes and cookies — and, of course, piňatas.

The Telegraph Avenue community came out to say farewell to Mario and Rosalita Tejades after 52 years. Photo: Hakim Dadzie

Mario Tejada said he was sad to be retiring and leaving the restaurant. “But I have seven grandchildren and I want to spend time with them,” he said. “They play baseball and I haven’t been able to watch them. Now I will.”

Mario and Rosalinda’s son Mario spoke of his parents’ dedication to running the popular restaurant, which moved from its previous Telegraph Avenue location to 2506 Haste a year ago.

“Just recently they were preparing food for Cal [the restaurant has long served the Golden Bears] and the staff were here in the kitchens preparing 1,100 burritos at four in the morning,” he said. Mario, who is 50, added that he was two years younger than the restaurant, “which is why Fiesta is my middle name”.

Mario and Rosalinda Tejada have owned and operated La Fiesta since 1952 first on Telegraph Avenue, and now on Haste

Peter Tannenbaum said he had been coming to Mario’s for 32 years. “I love the family atmosphere, the low prices and the good food,” he said.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, as well as Mayor Bates’ Chief of Staff Julie Sinai came out to toast the couple, who will retire to their home in Walnut Creek.

The restaurant is being taken over by Manny Lopez and will be renamed Remy’s Mexican Restaurant.

Chocolate cake, especially, said her son Mario, for Rosalinda

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  • Anonymous

    So what is happening to their original location at Tele and Haste? It has been sitting their for many, many months, with a sign saying Gabriella’s Heavenly Pizza, fully remodeled and looking like it is ready to go, but it never opens. What is delaying it?

  • http://www.davosnewbies.com lknobel

    I’ve heard that it is being held up by city inspectors. The oven used for
    pizzas gets so hot that significant venting is required. Inspections have
    stalled on that.

  • deirdre

    Thanks for this uplifting story.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the information.

  • Meliflaw

    La Fiesta was the first place I ever ate in Berkeley, almost 40 years ago. I can’t imagine La Fiesta without the Tejadas. I wish the new owner would at least reconsider changing the name.

  • Mike Farrell

    Wow – From Roger-Barber and Pauline Kael ’til today. That’s a lot of Berkeley history.

  • http://janabouc.wordpress.com/ Jana Bouc

    I remember taking shelter there when the police were shooting tear gas at protesters in the early 70s when I was a street artist on Telegraph. The owners were so kind to me and allowed me to bring my dog inside too and gave her water and then put wet towels over the crack under the front door.

  • Paula Hollowell

    Mario and Rosalinda are parishioners at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Berkeley, and have been for many years. Whenever the need arises, they donate their wonderful food to church events. They are wonderful people!

  • Guest

    Born in 1957, Berkeley girl from day one, never had much money, so Mario’s was always my night out of choice. Many thanks for all the good food at reasonable prices, and very best wishes.

  • Rmmyslewski

    Despite my lefty leanings, I was a merchant teller at the BofA at Tele and Durant in the early 70s while attending Cal, pursuing the arts. Mario came in daily, was a very sweet man with jokes and a remarkable presence, and–naive as I was to the reality of Berkeley in the early 70s–held forth as a source of unanimity midst the challenges of youth in the Babel that was the local scene. As such, I frequently went to La Fiesta for my favorite: chili relleno. God, I’ll miss that. Thanks for the memories–and the rellenos against which all others are measured.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019502272 Laurel Bellon

    Sigh, another end of an era. La Fiesta has been a part of my life in Berkeley. Reliably good, honest food and friendly folks – I will miss it. Have a wonderful life Mario and Rosalinda.

  • Berkeley Boy

    That’s Mario Jrs’ SISTER, Margarita, not his wife… That’s all three of the children in the picture with Mario Sr & Rosalina

  • http://berkeleyside.com Tracey Taylor

    Thanks Berkeley Boy for that clarification. I have made the correction in the photo caption. Do you know the name of Mario and Rosalinda’s other daughter by any chance?

  • Alyssa

    This was such an amazing place to eat!!! I’ll definitely miss going in there and getting great authentic Mexican food. Mario and Rosalinda have worked so hard for so many years. As sad as it is to see them leave the business, it’s so nice for them to finally have a break!! Congrats on running a business for over half a century and even more congrats to finally being able to rest. :o)

  • Ruhooper

    Thanks for the article. I’ve been eating there since ~1960 ( before I started kindergarten!) . ( My folks had offices above Fraser’s @ 2409 Telegraph) . A real loss.. Viva Mario and Rosalinda! Viva la Fiesta!

  • Dan

    The oldest daughter is Rosie.  I went to school with them.  What a wonderful family- every one of them.  They put on a big benefit dinner for the school every year and fed hundreds all gratis,  I remember Mario Sr. talking about how good America had been and how much he wanted to give back.  Good luck Mr. and Mrs. Tejada and enjoy a much deserved retirement.

    Dan