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Mi Nidito famously remains Absolutely Arizona

Posted at 1:50 PM, Jan 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-13 23:08:42-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — It is nearly 3 o'clock in the afternoon and there's still a half-hour wait for lunch at Mi Nidito.

Ernesto and Alicia Lopez made the right choice when they came to Tucson from Sonora, Mexico 68 years ago.

"My grandfather wanted a tortilla factory," said current co-owner Jimmy Lopez. "My grandmother wanted a Mexican food restaurant."

Jimmy's grandmother won out.

"I think they made the better choice going with the restaurant," said Jimmy Lopez. "And the rest is history."

What a history for Mi Nidito, or "My Little Nest."

Ernesto and Alicia opened the restaurant in 1952, on 4th Avenue, which was still a dirt road.

Mi Nidito was indeed tiny with just 12 seats.

"They struggled, just like all the immigrants do," recalled Jimmy Lopez. "But they had a vision for their family and for themselves. It's worked out quite well."

The recipes came from Alicia Lopez.

"She started out with little pots," said Jimmy. "One quart pots, two quart pots. We just expanded it over the years."

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And the restaurant expanded as well.

A tour of Mi Nidito started in the lobby, which used to be the kitchen and the restaurant.

"Twelve seats, four little tables, that was it."

Jimmy is the third generation of Lopez's to run Mi Nidito, along with his younger brother Ernie.

At 66, Jimmy's been around for both of the restaurants expansions and one Preidential visit.

With just 20 minutes notice, President Bill Clinton stopped by in February of 1999.

After shaking hands with everyone in the restaurant and in the kitchen, he sat down in the now famous booth to order.

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It is now known as the "Presidents Plate." Longtime Chef Maria De La Cruz made it for the President and she will make it for you.

The future of Mi Nidito remains bright. Jimmy and Ernie Lopez are hopeful a fourth generation family member will take over the operation.

"And make my grandmother proud," said Jimmy Lopez.