Camerino Gonzalez, an icon in Chicago’s Hispanic business community, has died at the age of 82.
Founder of the Los Comales restaurant, Camerino was a living example of the entrepreneurial heart of “La Villita.” And Los Comales was an emblem in his community.
He opened the first restaurant in 1973 on 26th Street in Little Village. Poles and Mexicans filled the neighborhood, and he quickly touched the palate of his customers with the flavors and style of tacos from the Distrito Federal in Mexico, from which he emigrated at a very early age. Today, 48 years later, Los Comales restaurant has become a small chain with 17 locations throughout Chicago, its suburbs, and in Milwaukee.
Camerino was a very humble and hard-working man who was admired and respected by many. He paved the way for many restaurants in Little Village and always led with gratitude. His legacy will live on and continue to impact small businesses and the entire community in Little Village and beyond.
Jaime di Paulo, president and CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Camerino’s death leaves a void in the community.
“Don Camerino was not only one of the pioneers of the Mexican business community in Chicago. He was a sage, a teacher, and a good and loyal friend. He was an example for all immigrants, an entrepreneurial man who dedicated his life to helping others,” he said. “He always gave to the community without expecting anything in return.”
“Don Camerino was a pillar in the Little Village community and the epitome of entrepreneurial spirit, launching Los Comales here in Little Village almost 50 years ago. He was a beacon of hope to restaurateurs who work tirelessly to make it in the restaurant industry,” said Ivette Treviño, executive director of Little Village Chamber of Commerce.
In 2019, Negocios Now gave Camerino Gonzalez its Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes the success story of a community leader, and in January 2020 it included him in its first edition of “Los 26 de la 26.”
Camerino is gone, but he leaves us monuments: the businesses called Los Comales, and the memory of a man whose humility and perseverance is an example for current generations and others to come, said Clemente Nicado, publisher of Negocios Now.