Antonio’s serves fresh Mexican food in heart of downtown Reno
April 17, 2017
Antonio's Mexican Grill is a cozy family-owned and operated restaurant in the heart of downtown Reno specializing in quick Mexican eats made fresh.
"It's comfort food. It's food that you eat at home," Irma Valle, co-owner of Antonio's, said in an interview conducted in Spanish with NNBW. The Valle family are bilingual and easily move from Spanish to English depending on need.
Both Irma and Antonio Valle were born in Jalisco, Mexico, and grew up in Chicago where they got married. Together and with the help of their kids, 31-year-old Jacqui and 24-year-old Anthony, they opened Antonio's in 2014.
Like the restaurant itself, the menu isn't very big, but that's intentional. Irma Valle wanted to keep the menu straightforward.
"The idea is food that can be done fast like burritos and tacos and gorditas. Those types of foods … that aren't that expensive, but are still healthy," Irma Valle described. "We make everything fresh."
They have expanded their menu over the years — adding dishes like fajitas for customers that want a heartier meal. The restaurant also includes vegetarian and vegan options and a bar.
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There are only six employees that run Antonio's and four of them are members of the Valle family. Everyone in the family has a number of roles in the restaurant. Irma Valle is behind the business side of things. Her husband, Antonio Valle, prepares the food. And Jacqui and Anthony do a lot of the front-end work like bartending, waiting and cashiering. There's always a member of the Valle family at Antonio's at any given moment.
"It's very difficult working with family," Irma Valle said. "But it's very gratifying too because we all work together and we're providing work for our family."
Irma Valle spent 20 years working at a Jewel supermarket in Chicago. She started out as a cashier and worked many other positions before she became manager, a position she held for 10 years.
Meanwhile, her husband was working at a restaurant in an airport.
Irma attributes a lot of their success in the restaurant industry to their prior work experience.
"Everything that you learn in life teaches you how to achieve these goals," Irma Valle explained. "But if you don't also know the business side of it and customer service skills, I believe you won't be successful. You have to know all of that."
The family first considered moving to northern Nevada when they visited Antonio's sisters in Sparks. Antonio Valle liked how much smaller and cheaper it was in the area, so they made the move in 1997. When they arrived they felt there was a lack of authentic Mexican restaurants in the area so in 1999 they opened a restaurant called La Fuente in Sparks.
They got their kids involved in the business at a very young age.
"When my daughter turned 14, we made her the hostess of our restaurant," Irma Valle remembered. "She became the waitress when she turned 18."
After 16 years of running La Fuente, the family decided to take a break and sold the restaurant.
"It was very tiring. I was very exhausted, it was too much," Irma Valle said.
She didn't think they would open up another restaurant after La Fuente, but when Tacos Del Mar closed at the downtown location, they saw an opportunity to start something new. Antonio's was created as a smaller restaurant with a small staff.
When it opened in 2014, it stumbled into an identity crisis.
"People got the idea that (Antonio's) was a franchise because it's a good-looking restaurant in a good-looking part of downtown," Irma explained. "We put a lot of effort into the first year and a half and we didn't think we would come out ahead. But as people started trying out our food … they gave us good reviews on Yelp. That helped us a ton."
Irma seems satisfied with the pace and feel of Antonio's. During the interview with Irma at her restaurant, one of her grandsons crawled under the table. Both her son and daughter have young kids of their own.
"I'm thinking about opening another one or two restaurants, but I don't know if that's going to happen yet. But I would like to see it continue," she said. "I would like to see it continue for them."
Antonio's Mexican Grill is located on 95 N. Sierra St. in downtown Reno. They're open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Monday, and 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
To see their menu, visit http://www.antoniosgrill.com.