By Raiza Giorgi
Maria Arroyo had been coming to the Santa Ynez Valley for several years for getaways and wine tastings, and she loved the atmosphere so much that she moved to Los Olivos two years ago.
“I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, and our family history goes back generations, but I wanted a fresh start,” she said.
Arroyo, who is part owner of Los Arroyos restaurant on the South Coast with her ex-husband Tony Arroyo, decided that the valley needed a location as well. The popular Mexican food restaurant is scheduled to open in early August in the Merkantile shopping center at Highway 246 and Alamo Pintado Road.
“I called Tony up and suggested we start a Solvang location, and now here we are about to open up at the end of the month,” she said.
It has taken about a year of planning to get this far, and the Thomas Fire and mudslides pushed their opening date from spring to late July.
“Thinking of coming this far in our restaurant and partnership is amazing. We had very different upbringings as I was the typical Santa Barbara girl, going to private schools, horse riding lessons, played volleyball, and Tony came here from Mexico sleeping on his cousin’s couch at 13 and working in restaurants to earn money,” she said.
Tony worked at Moby Dick’s on Stearns Wharf, working his way up to manager, and then worked at Carlito’s, where he met Maria.
“We ended up falling in love and it was amazing. We were a great team and eventually decided that we wanted to open our own restaurant. We loved our Carlito’s family, but wanted to strike out on our own,” she said.
In a 600-square-foot space the two started the restaurant in 1999 and ran the business themselves with just a few employees, some of whom are still with them today, until demand required hiring more staff and leasing more space. From their first location on Coast Village Road, they have since opened places in Camarillo and Goleta.
“Doing this while starting our family was a lot of stress, and while we were great business partners we decided that our relationship should stay as such and parted ways as friends,” Arroyo said.
Both are thrilled that their son Diego, now 13, has shown an interest in the restaurant business and hope he will someday take over the operations.
“Diego is amazing and loves learning about his heritage and the recipes. He really takes after his father with his ethic and attention,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo added that the feel of the restaurant will be just like their others, very family friendly and keeping in line with using fresh ingredients that are locally sourced as possible.
“We are really thrilled to partner with local producers, from farmers to wine makers, and the valley has some of the best,” Arroyo said.
To find out when they are opening follow them on Facebook or log onto their website at www.losarroyossolvang.com.