Places That Matter | Latinos in Rhode Island

El Paisa Restaurant | Central Falls, RI

El Paisa Restaruant | 598 Dexter St. | Central Falls, RI 02863

In January of 1978, José Quintero, an immigrant from Medellín, Colombia opened a small restaurant on 598 Dexter Street and called it El Paisa. Soon thereafter, Quintero's health failed and his wife, who was left to manage the business, sold it to César and Donatila Zuleta. The building sat empty while Zuleta remodeled and officially reopened El Paisa in 1980. At that time the Hispanic population in Central Falls was growing in leaps and bounds, and the restaurant quickly thrived.

During an interview with Nuestras Raíces, César says: "I left Colombia for the United States hoping that one day I could be my own boss. I was in the agricultural business in Medellín, and when I first arrived, factory work were the only jobs available; I worked four years at American Insulated Wire in Pawtucket. My wife, Donatila, worked at Hasbro. In 1979, we took a big leap of faith and purchased El Paisa. I didn't even know how to cook, but I learned fast."

Today El Paisa remains a popular eatery and its menu continues to cater primarily to the local Colombian community.
NOTE: The name Paisa — comparable to "Paisano" or countryman — refers to "Antioqueños" or those from the Antioquia region of Colombia, of which Medellín is the capitol.

We are looking for your stories | Buscamos sus historias ...

If you have stories to share about the El Paisa, please contact us. We are interested in personal stories, photographs or other documents from its early days. Click here
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Photo taken by Marta V. Martínez | 2017
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