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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Family celebrates the legacy of a Hollywood musical dancer turned Silver Lake restauranteur

Photos courtesy Del Campo family

Rudy del Campo (right) during the 1970s.

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.

Rudy del Campo (crouching at far right) with the Westside Story cast. Photo courtesy Del Campo family.



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12 comments

  1. i wonder if Mia will be there…we went to Marshall together.

  2. I’m so proud to know and work with the Del Campo family (first at DRAGSTRIP 66 at Rudolpho’s from 1993-2004) and at Casita Del Campo and creating the Cavern Club Theater in 1994, which is still going strong and more packed than ever!

    Here’s to 50 more years of giving Silver Lake and our community so much joy!

  3. My first “date” after I moved to California in 1964 was at Casita del Campo. I think, probably, also my first margarita.

  4. I love Casita del Campo. I first went there with my mother and stepdad in 1982, and I’ve taken many, many friends (and dates) there over the years. The margaritas are potent and not sickly-sweet (like they are at the chain Mexican restaurant whose name rhymes with El-Bore-ito), Casita del Campo’s homemade chips are addictive, the food is good, and the ambience is fantastic. I haven’t been to the theater yet – and I didn’t even realize they had a theater until a few years ago – but it’s on my list of things to do. Happy 50th, Casita.

  5. I went to Casita when it first opened in 1962. A guy I met at a gay bar across the street (The Hyspot) who told me there was a good new Mexican restaurant that had just opened. We walked across the street for a good and very inexpensive meal. And I have been going there ever since. Best Marquiritas ANYWHERE!

  6. I went to Casita whan it first opened in 1962. I had met someone across the street at a gay bar (The Hyspot) who told me that a good new Mexican restaurant had just opened. We had a very good and inexpensive dinner there, and I have been going there ever since. Best Marqaritas ANYWHERE!

  7. Thank you for the article. It resonates with love and authenticity! I’d like to make a correction: Casita del Campo restaurant was founded in 1962 by Rudy del Campo, his sister Beatriz,, and his first wife, Helen. His brother Marty worked as manager. My mom, Nina has been involved with the restaurant since 1965, and has been running the business for more than 30 years! Long live Casita del Campo!

  8. I have spent so many beautiful moments at Casita with so many amazing memories, ever since I was just a child. Tia Nina and Rudy, thank you for giving so much of yourselves to make this restaurant a Silverlake icon that stands today as one of the finest and most loved Mexican Food Restaurants in all of Los Angeles, and the world. Congratulations, cheers, and many more exciting years to come. With love.

  9. Rudy was talented and wonderful man and I feel fortunate to have known him. Congratulations to all those involved with running Casita del Campo over the last 50 years, and thank you all for creating the delicious food, drinks, and atmosphere that make Casita such a special place.

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