Valentin Rosas could not bear the idea of losing the restaurant that his late sister worked so hard to buy. So Rosas and his wife, Maria, took it over in 2016.
At that time, the restaurant was known as El Quetzal. It has since been renamed Casa María. The location remains the same: Rodeo Plaza Shopping Center at Shaw and Minnewawa avenues.
The new name speaks of home: welcoming, warm, a place where you feel comfortable. Maria Rosas has helped create that atmosphere with her friendly, never-met-a-stranger personality.
She circulates easily in the dining room — its walls painted a dark terra cotta and decorated with paintings and metal artwork. The Rosas family not only redid the interior but painted the outside as well.
Ambience is important, but customer service is their top priority.
“I tell my staff: make sure the customers are considered family,” Maria Rosas said. “They are not just a number here.”
The family feel extends to what customers find on the menu. Casa María promotes serving authentic Mexican food.
One example: torta ahogada, a salsa-drowned sandwich that's particularly popular in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Meat choices are ground beef, shredded beef, carne asada or chicken. The price is $9.75.
Other authentic offerings are menudo (a soup made with beef stomach) and cocido (a vegetable stew). Prices range from $2.50 to $9.95. Another dish is pozole, a pork stew priced at $7.75 or $9.95. Prices vary according to serving size.
Since taking over the restaurant, Maria has increased portions and upgraded meats. In addition, chips are made fresh everyday.
Casa María serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is available all day. Lunch and dinner offerings are numerous and include a variety of fajitas, seafood and steaks, as well as combination plates, burritos, chile verde items and soups (caldos).
Lunch prices range from $2.50 (a taquito or taco) to $15.75 (carne asada, steak picado or New York steak, served with rice, beans and a choice of soup, salad or tostada salad).
Dinner prices range from $8.45 (a small compuesta) to $16.95 (Valentin's Tres Amigos fajitas featuring chicken, beef and shrimp). Dinner plates come with rice, beans and the soup or salad options.
For guests with big appetites, there is the two-pound burrito with choice of chicken, shredded beef, carne asada or carnitas. Guests looking for extra-healthy choices can pick from steamed fish with vegetables or Maria's Veggies (carrots, squash, onions, peppers and tomatoes).
Casa María also serves margaritas, beer and wine.
Meanwhile, the restaurant's family feel is evident on the mustard-colored walls of the banquet room that adjoins the dining room. Two framed photos show Maria and Valentin's grandson, Valentin III, in his basketball and soccer uniforms.
The banquet room is available for all occasions. In fact, members of the Clovis High School Class of 1957 recently gathered there.
A connection to the past is a big part of the back story at Casa María. The restaurant first opened in the late 1970s, and Valentin Rosas' sister and brother-in-law, Teresa and Salvador Tapia, got jobs there.
Teresa worked days at Zacky Farms and waited tables at night at the restaurant. Salvador was a cook, and Valentin (then a teenager) washed dishes there.
Teresa and Salvador saved their money and finally bought the restaurant, while Valentin eventually started a commercial landscaping business that he still runs.
In 1998, Teresa died. Salvador continued to run the restaurant until 2016, when he decided to retire and sold it to Valentin and Maria.
Working with the public comes naturally to Maria after 28 years at Vons.
“I'm a people person – I can tell you that,” she said, sitting in the banquet room. A few minutes later, Maria was in the dining room talking to a customer about a mutual interest in horses and then sweeping up under a table.
“I do whatever needs to be done,” she said.
Casa María is at 180 Shaw Ave. The phone number is (559) 298-6271. The restaurant has coupons at dealsaver.com and groupon.com. Seniors (55 and older) and military members get a 10 percent discount.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is closed on Monday.