There is a shiny new restaurant on the scruffy corner of Beverly Boulevard and Normandie called Guatelinda. 4161 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. With about fifty seats, a cozy bar and a karaoke corner, it's a fine refuge to find among the cash check shops and littered bus stops that comprise the rest of the block. Owner Ruben Umaña is soft-spoken and unassuming, but has brought his extended family into his new business. And this isn't his first restaurant, either.
Amongst the Guatemalan community in Los Angeles, Ruben Umaña is known as El Chapinísimo, or, roughly, the big daddy Guatemalan. Since the 1970s, Umaña has run a successful business importing Guatemalan goods to the US, serving the Los Angeles community that thrived in the aftermath of Guatemala's civil war.
Umaña and his wife, Violeta met in Guatemala when they were 15. Umaña eventually moved to Los Angeles to attend college, but missed his high school sweetheart so much that he returned to his war torn country to bring Violeta back with him. Over the last three decades, they've operated businesses in LA ranging from importing goods, live music (he is said to have brought the first marimba xylophones to LA), bodegas, nightclubs and restaurants.
Together with his wife, daughters Cheryl and Fritzie, son Ruben and sons-in-law, Umaña soft-opened Guatelinda last Saturday. This Saturday, February 23 is the restaurant's grand opening party. The neighborhood is invited to have a taste of the extensive Guatemalan menu, which includes garnachas (Guatemalan-style tacos), enchiladas, tamales, chiles rellenos and sweet buñuelos.
With his business background, Ruben Umaña thinks far and wide. The family is already eyeing a second location for Guatelinda in the San Fernando Valley and also has their sights set on opening a third in San Francisco.