The story behind El Campesino’s owner and the restaurant’s origins | Pittsburgh City Paper

The story behind El Campesino’s owner and the restaurant’s origins

click to enlarge A fajita and two margaritas are shown on a table inside a restaurant
CP Photo: Pat Cavanagh
Fajitas and margaritas from El Campesino in Monroeville

Maurilio Alva, one of the co-owners of chain Mexican restaurant El Campesino, saw an opportunity in the Pittsburgh area to start his own restaurant franchise and he did just that.

Alva is originally from Mexico and says he came to the U.S. for a better life for him and his family.

When he first arrived, he started working in the restaurant business in North Carolina, where he first started hearing about the Pittsburgh area from customers.

He started out as a dishwasher but slowly made his way up to higher positions within the places he worked. Eventually, he ended up in Indiana working as a waiter, where he met his boss who eventually sold him El Campesino.

CP talked to Alva about his experience creating a business in his home of Monroeville, which contains multiple Latino restaurant chains, including Rey Azteca and Patron Mexican Grill.

Why did you decide to come to the Monroeville area?
The decision was made because, when I was a worker, a lot of people from Pittsburgh who traveled to North and South Carolina told me, as a waiter, that they needed more Mexican restaurants here. I told my boss in Indiana about it and told him he needed a restaurant in Pittsburgh. Eventually, he came back to me and told me he bought a building in the Pittsburgh area and I congratulated him. Over time, he sold it to me and my business partner because it was too expensive to get an alcohol license here for him.

What was the most difficult part of opening a restaurant in the Pittsburgh area?
The difficult part was just being a part of the business. But the most difficult part was maintaining our customers because there's a lot of discounts in other places. People are worried about prices, especially with how the economy is right now. Another difficult part was trying to gather the money to open the restaurant.

Did you ever expect to open as many restaurants as you have?
In truth, I never thought to have the restaurants that exist now, at first I only wanted one to support my family and kids.

Why did you choose to come to the U.S.?
The economy of our country isn’t great, unfortunately. Our presidents steal for themselves. We move here to find a better future for our family, live better, and help our parents, siblings, and family in our home country. That was the intention for me.