There was a Roberto…
The -berto’s saga begins in California with a real -berto. Roberto Robledo, along with his wife, Dolores, opened Roberto’s Taco Shop in San Diego in 1964. In the 1980s, according to the company’s Web site, Roberto’s opened new locations.
Estrada, who lived in California during the birth of the -bertos, said over time the original family members extended the concept under the name Alberto’s. The restaurants were yellow and red, had impossibly long menus and were very popular.
They soon spawned imitators: Aliberto’s, Adiberto’s and Loberto’s,
So when the Tenorio family decided to open its 24-hour takeout spot in San Diego in 1988, it made sense that they chose to name it Filiberto’s, after the brother whose name conjured up thoughts of machaca burritos.
“It ended with -berto’s,” said Nancy Tenorio, office manager for the Filiberto’s corporate office in Arizona. The state’s first Filiberto’s opened in Mesa in 1993. It had the familiar yellow and red paint scheme, with the name printed in flowing red cursive letters. Other Filiberto’s locations soon followed.
“A lot of people say, ‘Everybody’s -berto,’ ” Tenorio said, “but everybody knows who’s first.” At least in Arizona.
Her uncle, the chain’s namesake, moved to Mexico, Nancy Tenorio said.
… and a Filiberto
But Filiberto Tenorio-Quintero sees it as a compliment that so many other restaurants opened using the -berto name, Tenorio said, showing that the family had successfully imported the concept from California.
Ariadna Armenta, who opened Dagoberto’s in northwest Phoenix in 2005, said the tag “seemed like the signature of fast food” in Phoenix. Her restaurant, now closed, took the name from one of her original investors, she said.
It was the same story with Roberto’s, in a Shell gas station on Union Hills Road in Phoenix, according to Estrada. She said a man named Roberto was supposed to invest in the takeout place. The deal was never struck, “but I stuck with the name,” she said.
Aside from the concept, the Phoenix location has no official relationship to the original Roberto’s in California.
“He’s a man in San Diego,” Diaz said, when asked who Humberto is.
… but don’t ask for Polberto
Eriberto’s in Phoenix was owned by a Felipe. Rigoberto’s in Mesa was operated by a Sergio. And a Juan was on file as being in charge at Rolberto’s in Glendale.
Calls to various -berto’s restaurants elicited names of different managers and owners, suggesting that operators of these restaurants flip over faster than a quesadilla.
Same with the names. The owner of a restaurant listed as Polberto’s Mexican Food in Sun City was confused when asked who Polberto was.