Saturday, January 9, 2010
By DON SHILLING
Israel Zambrano, owner of Los Gallos Restaurant, has a message for the people of the Mahoning Valley, but it’s hard for him to deliver it.
“My English is not good,” the 32-year-old native of Mexico said in English that’s accented but understandable. “I never had the opportunity to go to school so I don’t have the words to express how I feel.”
Zambano pauses and then talks about having to work as a boy instead of going to school.
His parents brought their six sons to this country 22 years ago because his father, Samuel, was offered a job making suits for a company in San Diego. His father was a tailor and a farmer in Mexico, but the thought of a steady job in the States was attractive.
The job didn’t work out, however, so he went to work in a restaurant. Soon, the family joined him at the restaurant to make ends meet.
As immigrants on a visa, the children were required to attend school three days a week for two hours.
Zambrano didn’t learn much English at the time, but through his parents, he learned something important that has served him well: The value of hard work.
He opened his restaurant at 685 Boardman-Canfield Road in 2004 and later expanded with another one in Bedford in suburban Cleveland. He also is about to open a banquet center next to his Boardman location and a third restaurant at Market Street and Western Reserve Road in Beaver Township.
Sitting under the Mexican artwork in his Boardman restaurant, Zambrano slowly shakes his head. He now is ready to express how he feels about the local residents who have allowed his business to grow.
“It brings tears to my eyes. To me, I feel that Youngstown is the best part of the United States,” he said.
Zambrano said he didn’t know anything about Youngstown when he first visited in 2003. Now, he has a circle of friends, loyal customers and a Boardman home for his family that includes his wife, Hilda, and two children.
Zambrano came to Youngstown with no plans to leave his family business. Zambrano’s father had taken the family to Virginia, where he joined with friends in opening a restaurant. The Zambranos eventually opened 13 restaurants in Virginia, and Israel became general manager.
In 2004, Zambrano brought four of the cooks from the Virginia restaurants, some family recipes and opened Los Gallos, which is his nickname, “The Rooster.”
He said about 80 percent of the menu items are authentic Mexican dishes, but he has added some less spicy meals for those who aren’t used to the flavors from south of the border.
He is about ready to open a banquet center next door that will seat 120. The restaurant can hold small parties of up to 50 people in a back room, but Zambrano found that he was turning away many larger events. He also said the banquet center will give people privacy for their events, which include wedding rehearsal dinners, birthday parties, and Christmas parties.