Far more than just a restauranteur, Miguel Ribera was a beloved community leader with a passion for helping local Hispanic youth. Born in New Mexico in 1918, Ribera bought the restaurant at 1415 South Virginia Street from its previous owner, Maria de Flores, in 1959. She had opened the converted house as Casa de Flores in 1956, offering Spanish food well into the wee hours of the morning.
Ribera renamed the eatery Casa de Amor, or “House of Love,” switched the menu to Mexican cuisine, and announced it would be open 24 hours a day. The popular chef served as something of an ambassador of Mexican food to the eager local community. By 1961 “Chef Miguel” was making appearances at the Reno YMCA for demonstrations of “foreign cooking.”
Ribera’s wife, Maralyn, and their daughter Antonia also worked in the restaurant, which soon took on the popular chef’s name. The generous family provided scholarships to many of their employees, including a young Emma Sepulveda, who went on to become an accomplished writer and professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Ribera moved his restaurant to another location for a brief time in the seventies, and this space became the Jolly Roger and then The Cove. By 1980, it was back to Miguel’s Fine Mexican Food.
Miguel Ribera passed away in 1998. For his years of dedication to the community, the Miguel Ribera Family Resource Center at Pine Middle School and Miguel Ribera Park are both named after him. In 2001, Elmer and Adilia Figueroa bought Miguel’s, which they continued to operate under his name.