Ricardo Benavides was waiting tables. Monica was bartending.
It was Long Island in the 1980s, and the future husband and wife met at a Meson Ole! in East Islip.
Soon they would embark on their own Mexican food endeavor in Babylon Village, taking over an old beauty parlor and opening Don Ricardo’s in 1989.
Now, 30 years later, the couple is moving onto their next chapter. Don Ricardo’s last day in business will be Thursday, June 13. They open at 5 p.m. for dinner.
“We are very emotional, because we had so many beautiful memories here,” said a tearful Monica Benavides. “Beautiful customers. Everybody knows us. We met so many good friends through this place. So right now we are very sad.”
Ricardo, now 62, felt it was time to retire after decades of endless hours on his feet in the two-story Mexican/Spanish restaurant that’s known for its authentic decor and that leafy, sun-splashed back patio that’s indoors.
“So many memories,” said Ricardo, also choking back tears. “We don’t know yet what’s next. We’re going to take it easy. We’ve been working for 30 years.”
The idea from the beginning was to offer authentic and fresh Mexican and Spanish food that was never frozen, he said. And that’s how Don Ricardo’s has remained ever since. Even on its last day.
[Editor’s note: A fine-dining establishment is being planned for Don Ricardo’s. Check back at GreaterBabylon.com for more.]
Top: Ricardo and Monica Benavides upstairs at Don Ricardo’s Wednesday. (Credit: Nicholas Esposito)