The Don of Taqueria Pico de Gallo

Don Nacho serves a customer at his restaurant, Taqueria Pico de Gallo, during lunch time.
Don Nacho serves a customer at his restaurant, Taqueria Pico de Gallo, during a Friday lunch. (Photograph by Austin McEvoy)

When Ignacio Delgado, better known as Don Nacho, was a kid, his mother owned a small store in Tetilan, Mexico.

One morning, she sent Nacho to buy a crate of oranges. She instructed him to slice the oranges, season them with salt and chile and by 11 a.m., start selling them.

“She asked me, ‘How much did you pay for the oranges?,'” Nacho says.  “I said $4. She said, ‘Okay, I want you to make $40.”

Nacho was successful in selling his orange slices, and soon enough his products shifted from oranges to jícamas, to coconuts, to watermelons, to sugar canes and eventually to bikes he repaired and rented out by the hour.

Nacho was 9-years-old.

Today, he is the successful owner of Taqueria Pico de Gallo, 2618 S. Sixth Ave.

But the road to successful entrepreneurship didn’t always come as easily as it did at his fruit stand in Mexico.

As an adult, Nacho worked as a mechanic for 15 years in the United States and was making good money—$18 per hour- but it was always his  dream to own his own pushcart to sell pico de gallo. It wasn’t your typical tomato, onion and cilantro pico de gallo that Tucsonans know and love: traditional Mexican pico de gallo consists of fruit instead. Nacho’s had chunks of coconut, watermelon, pineapple, mango and jícama seasoned with chili powder and salt.

Not everyone understood his dream of owing a pushcart, however.

“I used to think, ‘What is this?’ The concept of a pushcart—I had only seen it in Mexico,” Nacho’s son, Adan Delgado says. “But here in the United States I was like, ‘This is weird, Dad. This is weird.’ But he was pretty stubborn—that was what he wanted to do.”

Even though his son thought the dream was strange, Nacho quit his mechanic job and bought a carrito.

His late wife, Antonia, was not pleased.

Pico de gallo is ready to be served during lunch hour at Taqueria Pico de Gallo on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.
Pico de gallo is ready to be served during lunch hour at Taqueria Pico de Gallo. (Photograph by Austin McEvoy)

“She said, ‘You’re stupid! You’re 40-years-old. You’re leaving your job for nothing,’” Nacho says. “She told me to get out of the house.”

But Nacho was determined, and spent months going back and forth with the health department, fighting for a permit. He spent thousands of dollars to have the stainless steel cart built and even added-on a kitchen in the back of his house to prepare the food.

Once the health department finally granted Nacho a permit, he immediately started selling his pico de gallo on the streets of southern Tucson.

On the first day he worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  He made $4.

“I went home tired, and I just said ‘Well, tomorrow is going to be better,’” Nacho says.

It didn’t. Within the first two months, the most Nacho made in a day was $18.

One night, Nacho came home and Antonia was angry.

“My wife was waiting for me at 10 o’clock at night and she said, ‘You remember when I told you to get out of here? Do it now. The door is closed for you,’” Nacho says.

He spent that night sleeping in his kitchen.

Eventually, the school year started and business picked up. Nacho said students would ask their parents for pico de gallo, and he found himself selling out of food early in the morning. He added horchata and elote to his menu, per the students’ requests.

After his success with the carrito, he earned back the support and respect of Antonia. Together they upgraded and bought a restaurant.

Fried fish sit ready for tacos during lunch time at Taqueria Pico de Gallo on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.
Fried fish sit ready for tacos during lunch time at Taqueria Pico de Gallo. (Photograph by Austin McEvoy)

Taqueria Pico De Gallo started small, with only two rooms. The nacho-cheese-yellow building has since doubled in size to accommodate more customers, especially at lunch time. Inside, a collage of family photos brings an intimate touch.

The menu is simple: tacos. Cabeza, fish, birria, chicken, shrimp—there’s a taco for everyone. To wash down the tacos are homemade horchata and agua fresca. And of course the menu wouldn’t be complete without Nacho’s unique pico de gallo.

Nacho is a successful business owner but he looks like an average abuelito—patches of grey hair, glasses and simple clothing. He is a humble man and is known for his generosity.

He donated particularly to Centro Cristiano Carasmatico, a church across the street from the restaurant.

“He would literally take his shirt off his back to give to someone in need,” says Juan Ciscomani, director of the children’s center at the church. This generosity, Ciscomani says, gives Nacho a strong presence in the South Tucson community.

“Within that city, he’s well respected,” Ciscomani says. “He not only supports the efforts of our church but for baseball teams. Whoever asks he gives it.”

Today, Taqueria Pico de Gallo is making a profit. But Nacho still works the cash register and chops fruit in the kitchen.

“He has an old workhorse mentality,” his son, Delgado, says. “He’s from the old, old school.”

Nacho is 70 and still comes to the restaurant every day at 9 a.m. to prep for the lunch rush.

“I retired once,” Nacho said. “I was at home watching TV and I felt sick. I felt like everything hurt. So I called my doctor and he told me to go to the restaurant. He said, ‘Call me in a week if you still feel sick,’” Nacho said.

He went back to work, and hasn’t felt sick since.

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