The doors of El Rialto Restaurant and Lounge remained open on Thursday, but a void was evident.
Frances Garcia, who owned and operated the restaurant with her husband, Ralph, died early Thursday morning following a lengthy illness. She was 64.
“My mom cared a lot about others,” said Abe Garcia during a telephone interview Thursday morning. “She was always concerned about you rather than her own wellbeing.”
News of her death shook the community with many people expressing their condolences and tributes to the Garcia family via Facebook. Abe Garcia said the messages, texts and tributes are helping the family cope with the loss of his family’s beloved matriarch. Among those posting tributes to Frances were local businesses Pam’s Flowers and KFUN Radio.
“We are getting tons of messages from many people including some we have not heard from or seen in years,” Abe Garcia said. “Those messages mean a lot to us.”
Also paying tribute to Frances are her many friends.
“She was a very wonderful, generous comadre and friend,” said Matthew Sandoval, a longtime friend of the Garcia family and a local district judge. “She quietly gave to so many needy people. She had a very big heart and was a great wife, mother, grandmother sister and employer. She spoiled everybody.”
El Rialto Restaurant, located on Bridge Street, has become an institution in Las Vegas.
It opened its doors in 1975 and is well known for its New Mexican cuisine, including tacos, tamales and other specialties. Thousands of people have stepped through the doors of the restaurant or Abraham’s Tiendita next door to enjoy their famous red chile and other specialties.
Prior to opening El Rialto, the Garcias operated a restaurant called La Cocina for two years.
But it was more than good food that the restaurant was known for. Frances could be seen regularly in the kitchen cooking up her specialties.
Abe Garcia said his mom cared about others and loved her employees.
“She was very caring and loving to everyone she came across,” he said. “She loved dad, her children and her grandchildren were her No. 1 priority.”
“Mom was battling with illness for a few years, but still worked,” Abe Garcia said. “She still got up every morning despite being as sick as she was. She still came to work and fed whom she had to feed. If it was any of us boys that were as sick as she was we would be in bed.”
The Garcias have also been active in the community and are known by many. The city recognized the family as grand marshals for the Fourth of July Fiestas parade in the early 2000s.
Frances Garcia is survived by her husband, Ralph, and their children Daniel, Abe, Elizabeth and Gabe. She also leaves behind grandchildren: Alma, Isabella, Laney, Emma, Cambria, Lucas, Isabella and Orlando.
Arrangements for Frances Garcia are pending and are under the direction of Billy Rogers of Gonzales Funerals and Cremations.