A granddaughter of the family who founded the landmark El Matador restaurant in Costa Mesa is back on the Orange County food scene with a new catering and event-planning business.
Monique Gallardo's Caly Events and Catering has a motto of TLC — tradition, love and creativity — and stresses personalized service, competitive pricing and quality food.
Monique, 22, is being helped by her father, Marcial Gallardo, whose parents, Marcial Sr. and Mary, founded El Matador in 1966. In 2005, the county put the Newport Boulevard restaurant up for auction after family disputes caused the matter to end up in court.
"When the restaurant [was sold,] it really tore our family apart," Marcial said. "We just basically separated. It's only been the last three or four years that we're actually talking again."
Marcial, in addition to his role as dad/business consultant, is a part-time chef for Caly Events. The Costa Mesa native who now lives in Irvine also ran California Wraps & Grill on East 17th Street before closing it in January.
"We're trying to get some triumph out of tragedy … we've all had some struggle," he said. "My whole family has."
But Caly Events truly is Monique's business, he said. "I'm here to support her."
Monique, who graduated from San Francisco State in May with a degree in hospitality, has always been eager to help her family. The Mater Dei alumna, who grew up in Costa Mesa and now lives in Newport Beach, started passing out chips and salsa at El Matador when she was 6, not unlike her father, who at the same age started as a dishwasher before eventually helping co-run the place alongside Marcial Sr. from 1992 to 2003.
"It was really important for me to get back here, help my family and start this business," Monique said.
It is hard, though, to get out of the shadow of El Matador, Marcial said. The restaurant is still in business with different owners.
"I think people think we're still there," he said. "We want people to know that everything that was built there was built by my dad and then carried on by me until my dad passed away."
He added: "There's more than just the facade of a building that makes it. It's us. When we ran the restaurant, you'd see one of the family members there all the time."
The family behind Caly Events said they can do anything and everything to make their customers happy.
"From the old days to now, we've always had foods that are high-end," Marcial said.
Monique's mother, Judy, and sisters Madeleine, 19, and Makaila, 7, are also helping the business.
"We're going to turn a new page, start fresh," Monique said.
Added Marcial: "We're ready to make a bounce back and get to where we're going."