SOUTHINGTON — Leon López grew up watching his family work in the food industry. He knew one day that he wanted to own a restaurant.
He achieved his dream and surpassed it. He currently owns four food establishments and plans to open a fifth in Salisbury over the summer.
López opened the taqueria, Salsa’s Southwest Grill in Southington in 2013, in the space where Crazy Greek is now located. He decided to move the business to a larger space across the street at 1156 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike as the business clientele grew.
“We’ve been doing well since we moved there,” he said.
This place is more of a take out place offering tacos, salads, burritos, tortas, empanadas and more. In 2016, López opened a second location in Southington, Salsa’s Southwest Grill and Bar, also offering Mexican fare, but in a restaurant setting. Seafood, steaks and drinks are also offered at the property, located at 2211 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike.
Salsa’s also has locations in Middletown and Newington.
The path to success has not been easy. López was born in Mexico and moved to the United States with his family in the early 1990s when he was nine years old. His family has always worked in the food industry. López followed in those footsteps and worked in restaurants in Plainville. He was a bus boy, dishwasher and salad preparer. He said he wanted to improve and get good at what he did. In addition, he wanted to discover the world of customer service by creating dishes.
He opened his first restaurant in 2004, De Paisano a Paisano in Plainville, but closed it in 2006.
Now that he owns more restaurants than he ever imagined, he’s motivated to keep growing.
“I really love what I do,” he said, adding that he enjoys taking care of his customers and employees.
For López, the kitchen is his favorite part of the business, and the challenge is having the “right team”, he said.
Art Secondo, a former city councilman, became a client when López opened his first business.
“They love serving food to people and they take great pride in their dishes,” Secondo said. “He worked hard to go from washing dishes to owning four restaurants.”
Secondo noted that López and his wife still had the same “outstanding personality” from day one. He can say “they like people” and is always looking to welcome people into his business. Secondo praised the restaurant for its good results despite the competition in the area. He is a former president of the Southington Chamber of Commerce and explained that the town has 126 restaurants.
“You have to be good at what you do to keep people coming back,” he said.
What makes salsa different is “the atmosphere, it’s the whole place, it’s the service, it’s the little touches with the food,” Secondo mentioned. Plus, they’re “very dedicated” to the restaurant.
Secondo’s favorite dish is soft tacos, he said. “It really looks like an authentic Mexican restaurant,” he added.
To learn more about Salsa’s, visit www.salsasgrillandbar.com.