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Casita del Campo still going strong after 55 years

You don’t have to travel south of the border to enjoy a deliciously authentic Mexican meal in a colorful and artistic environment. Casita del Campo can lift your spirits and delight your senses for a very reasonable price.

Rudy del Campo and family opened Casita del Campo in 1962. They dedicated themselves to building a loyal clientele with fine food and caring, friendly service. Nina del Campo met Rudy in 1965, and instantly fell in love. Nina has been working at the restaurant since 1965 and just celebrated 53 years of service and leadership. She's been in charge of the business since the 1960's, and has loved every minute. They celebrated 40 years of loving marriage until Rudy's passing in 2003.

As the story goes, this one is a real “West Side Story.” Rudy del Campo had a successful dance career on Broadway and in Las Vegas. He was also one of the Sharks in the film version of “West Side Story.” After the movie, he decided to open the restaurant. There is “West Side Story” memorabilia throughout the restaurant, as well as many original works of Latin art.

Relaxing on the colorful patio decorated with shrubs and flowers, my companion and I feasted on some of Nina del Campo’s recommendations. For an appetizer, don’t miss the fresh guacamole served in a crispy flour tortilla. Dip those chips.

You can always wash them down with a handmade margarita, made with fresh lime juice. Casita del Campo specializes in apple, peach, melon, strawberry and banana margaritas. As a sampler, order the Casitas Special, six tasty mini tortillas topped with beans, beef, chicken, jack cheese, guacamole and sour cream.

For the main dish, I ordered the pollo al cilantro, which was delightful: fresh chicken cubes in a butter sauce, with olive oil, spices and cilantro. All entrees are served with soup or salad, rice, beans and fresh hot corn tortillas. My companion ordered the cochinita pibil, which was equally flavorful. This dish is pork tenderloin marinated in spices, achiote chili and fruit juice. It is then slowly baked and served with white rice and black beans.

At Casita del Campo you can find all your Mexican favorites. The most requested dishes are the fajitas, chicken or beef, and pollo Mexican, which is a one half grilled marinated chicken with fresh fruit juice and assorted spices. If you enjoy seafood, try the camarones a la Veracruzana, tiger shrimp sauteed in olive oil, onions, tomatoes and olives.

Casita del Campo is so much fun and has a real party atmosphere. It offers two outdoor patios and a beautiful dining room with a giant rubber tree. I could hardly believe my eyes, but this tree is for real. In addition, there is a sports lounge that offers live entertainment with a full bar, along with a variety of intimate booths if privacy is your thing. This place is huge.

Casita del Campo is located at 1920 Hyperion Ave., 90027 in Silverlake. Open seven days from 11 a.m. for lunch and dinner. Banquet facilities are available. For more information or reservations, call (323) 662-4255.