If you’re a San Diego local, you’ve certainly seen a plethora of taco shops with names that end in “-berto’s.” To name a few, we’ve got Rolberto’s, Alberto’s, Adalberto’s, Juan Bertos, Filiberto’s, Jilberto’s, Brobertos, and WhenDoesThisListF’inEndBerto’s.
So, what’s with all the “-berto’s”?
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According to the Roberto’s website, Roberto and his wife, Dolores Robledo, began their career in the food industry when they successfully opened their own tortilla factory in San Ysidro, CA in the summer of 1964. Soon after opening the tortilla factory, they went on to expand the venture, opening a traditional style taco shop that same year.
Hailed as Roberto’s Numero Uno, the OG 24-hour location (pictured below) still operates on Highland Avenue in National City.
Per a 2008 article in the Arizona Republic (of all places,) as the family grew, so did the number of shops with the Roberto’s name. Around the same time, Robledo’s cousins, the Dominguez family, started the Alberto’s Mexican Food chain. Akin to the original Roberto’s, the restaurants were yellow and red, had impossibly long menus, and were very popular among locals. By the mid-eighties, the two restaurant groups, Roberto’s and Alberto’s, dominated the fast-casual /late-night Mexican food market in Southern California.
Now, because the names weren’t trademarked, a heaping of non affiliated imitators began popping up all over the place — in some cases, acquiring original Roberto’s and/or Alberto’s locations. Not wanting to lose the drawing power of the original locations, new operators altered the names without legal recourse. Enter, an onslaught of Filiberto’s, Ramberto’s, Gilberto’s, and Reyberto’s with no connection to the Robledo family, but very similar menus and branding.
After years of getting its name pilfered, the “-berto’s” trademark was finally enforced, requiring new operators to change the spelling of “-burto’s” (with an “u” instead of an “e.”) But, needless to say, it wasn’t enough to shred all the “-berto’s” knock-offs from existence.
Today, although the founder, Robledo Roberto, passed in 1999, his family continues to run over 70 Roberto’s Taco Shops. In fact, Roberto’s remains a pioneer in fast, traditional Mexican food with taco shops throughout California and Nevada. A handful of Alberto’s Mexican Food restaurants still remain in Southern California.