Rafael “Ray” Vega, founder of San Fernando Valley Mexican restaurant staple Casa Vega, has died. The Vega family announced his death on social media on Monday, saying the elder Vega “passed away peacefully” on Sunday, January 10. He was 86.
The elder Vega arrived as a child to Los Angeles, born to parents from Tijuana, Mexico. The family first opened a restaurant on historic Olvera Street in the Chinatown area of Downtown, before Ray Vega (at just 22 years old) embarked on opening Casa Vega on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks in 1956. The restaurant has stood proudly since then, a neighborhood staple with an always-smiling crew, warm tortilla chips, and lots of Mexican-American heart.
The restaurant is currently run by daughter Christy Vega, who has had to navigate Casa Vega through the most tumultuous year ever for the restaurant industry, at one point even turning the parking lot into a drive-thru pick-up location for meals. Casa Vega has been closed since mid-December as a result of the ongoing pandemic, with the Vega family saying on the restaurant website that the business will remain closed until outdoor or indoor dining is once again allowed in Los Angeles County. The temporary closure notice further reads: “We are an institution and not going anywhere. Unfortunately, we cannot count on our government to help small businesses, so we must protect ourselves until we can rise again and do what we do best- serving customers at our tables & bar.”
Vega also shared words about the parting of her father on her own Instagram page, saying:
We worked side-by-side for over 15 years, every day. He taught me everything I know. He made sure I could take care of myself. He made sure I knew how to carry on Casa Vega.
The full announcement of Ray Vega’s death can be seen on the Casa Vega restaurant Instagram page below. He will be missed.