Fourteen years later, Rio Rico goes through three or four batches of one of its signature dishes every day, said Mario Ruiz, who is the general manager and Juan’s son.
Diners are eating up the fried Anaheim peppers all day long as the family-owned restaurant continues to thrive behind a loyal and satisfied customer base.
“We are having to make them three or four times a day,” Mario said. “He comes in and goes through the process and does the tedious work to get them done.
“We are used to using just [Monterey Jack] cheese, but we do some requests for meat, too. Everyone seems to like them.”
The Mexican restaurant uses recipes that Juan came across when working at a place in Southern California while adding its own twist.
The word that keeps coming in via reviews and talking to patrons is “authentic.” The food is not Americanized food, which can be found at most Mexican chain restaurants.
These dishes, such as the carne asada burritos and the smoky chipotle sauce camarones el chipotle shrimp dish, taste like home.
“The biggest compliment I can give is that it is authentic,” Gilbert resident Bob Lizardi said. “It reminds me of my mom’s food. We come here at least once a week if not twice.”
It is a family affair with Juan’s wife, Maria, and their three daughters also pitching in when they can to keep the comfortable and homey feel filtering into the atmosphere.
“We want to put out a great product and make people feel like they are eating at their own kitchen table,” Mario said. “We take great pride in the food that we bring out of the kitchen and want to make sure everyone leaves here thinking about when they’ll come back and see us again.”
Rio Rico Mexican Grill
929 N. Val Vista Drive, Ste. 101, Gilbert
Hours: Sun. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Tue.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., closed Mon.