Interview

Luis Rivera - Casa Adela

Luis: — So the way [Adela] became in the business was she started out with a shopping cart in the kitchen in the house. And the neighborhood was all mixed. There were some Italians, some Jews, there were some Blacks and then the Hispanic came into the neighborhood and they didn’t have like now, where they could have their typical Latino food. And she kind of took it upon herself to feed the workers, which were Hispanic at the time, mostly Puerto Rican. And she kind of became a regular to the point of where she was, you know, every time a place was available, it was offered to her, “why don’t you [set up] shop here?”

She took the offering at one point, and she started off her first little place which was that one picture there… you can see it was a very narrow place, a very very small place. And that was the first restaurant, more like a place to meet up.… Everything that was related to all the Hispanic people, at that time we kinda took care for them. Old people used to pick kids up from the neighborhood, so their parents could pick them up [at the restaurant], and little odds and ends that we did for the neighborhood, that gave us rooting, you know, the roots. And then everybody became comfortable with the way we did cooking, and we started having more sit down dinners.

We realized there were other items we needed to incorporate to the business ’cause people ate different. So we added more with chicken, the espresso machine… the juice machine for the juice and that’s how we got the rest of the neighborhood, too.

So how long has your mom been in the neighborhood?
Oh ’72, ’71, ’70.… it’s great, and we expect to stay here until my kids are my age, 40-something years. It’s a mom and pop, we give you a little bit of ambience, like adding the Spanish soap operas, a little bit of cooking and traditional pastilles making which is a Spanish turnover, it’s with meat in it, rather than the sweet and we make that every year during the holiday. For Puerto Ricans that’s like bringing the family together because the process of putting this dish together brings the whole family in different aspects, some might grind the products, other might chop the meat and someone would sit down and wrap it into what is called a pastel. And basically that’s one thing we continue to do and we have so many Puerto Ricans coming, they hang out and say "oh I did that with grandma, I did that with my aunt” and that kind of gives them a feeling.

[Everyone is in the family,] that’s why it makes it slow. You know sometimes you can't take care of everybody at the same time. [Adele comes in] everyday 5 o’clock, sometimes she stays ’til 11. But that’s why we don't let her doing it all alone, because she has to be here.… I guess if you have a good restaurant you stick to it.

So you eat here every day?
I try [smiles]. Yeah, I do, I’m also responsible for tasting everything…