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Jose H. Rodriguez, chef-owner of Mexican seafood restaurant La Serenata di Garibaldi, dies at 76 [Updated]

November 23, 2010 |  2:34 pm


Jose H. Rodriguez, the chef-owner of La Serenata de Garibaldi, one of the most celebrated Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles, has died. He was 76.

[For the record, 11:07 a.m. Nov. 24: An earlier version of this post said Rodriguez was born in 1933 and was 77 when he died. In fact, he was born in 1934 and was 76.]

Rodriguez died of heart failure Monday at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, said his brother, Jorge.

Soon after the restaurant opened in Boyle Heights in 1985, The Times reviewed it beneath a headline that declared: “Mexican Treasure in East L.A.” Crowds soon followed, his brother said.

In a September review marking the restaurant’s 25th anniversary, Times critic S. Irene Virbila noted that it was “love at first bite” when she first tasted the establishment's Mexican seafood in the mid-1990s.

Born in 1934 in Torreon, Mexico, Rodriguez was the eldest of eight children. He started learning the restaurant business in the 1950s in Juarez and the next decade moved to Los Angeles, where he waited tables at fine restaurants.

With his wife, Aurora, he opened La Serenata de Garibaldi. Two other locations, in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica, followed.

“What Nobu Matsuhisa is to Japanese cooking, chef/owner Jose Rodriguez is to Mexican: a genie of sauces,” Virbila wrote in The Times in 2000 when the Boyle Heights location reopened after it was remodeled.

His “remarkable repertoire,” another Times reviewer wrote in 1985, included fish quesadillas, an exceptional mahi-mahi enchilada and an impressive chicken mole.

A complete obituary will follow.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: The dining room at La Serenata di Garibaldi. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times