When returning to the United States after living in Mexico for much of his childhood, Rudy del Campo had a dream to become a professional dancer. He realized his dream, dancing away in Broadway shows and in such classic Hollywood movie musicals as “Westside Story,” where he played a Puerto Rican “Shark” gang member named Del Campo. But, in his 30s, Del Campo needed a new career. In 1962, after teaming up with his sister and first wife, Helen, to purchase a small Silver Lake house on Hyperion Avenue, Del Campo embarked on his new role as a restauranteur and owner of Casita del Campo. The Mexican restaurant expanded, with the family eventually buy a row of “casitas” that eventually became the sprawling restaurant, theater and parking lot. With the help of Del Campo’s Hollywood friends and connections, the restaurant attracted celebrities ranging from Rock Hudson to former newscaster Jerry Dunphy, said Robert del Campo, one of Rudy’s children. The restaurant became a favorite hangout for many gay customers and, during the 1970s, a popular spot for jazz musicians to unwind after finishing their shows at other clubs.
Del Campo died seven years ago at age 76. But, on Saturday, March 17, Del Campo’s family will celebrate Rudy’s legacy and his restaurant’s 50th anniversary with mariachis, Latin Jazz and a display of Westside movie memorabilia. “We want to keep the good times and spirit alive for the community,” Robert del Campo said.
Del Campo also opened another Silver Lake nightspot, Rodolfo’s, which is now a Home restaurant at the corner of Riverside and Fletcher drives. Meanwhile, back at Casita del Campo, Del Campo’s second wife, Nina, running the restaurant with the help of family members.
While Casita Del Campo has been popular for its Margaritas, Robert del Campo said his father preferred his tequila straight and was partial to the arroz con pollo.