"It's very sentimental for me," Lopez said through tears the morning of May 31. It was her final day working at the restaurant at Church and Calderon streets, though it is staying open another month as it transitions to new ownership. "It's part of my life."
Lopez is 86 and still worked in the restaurant daily until the end. She opened the restaurant with her husband Roberto in 1969 after immigrating from El Salvador and finally choosing to settle in Mountain View.
The restaurant had been busy for several days with longtime customers saying goodbye to Lita and enjoying a final papusa or chile verde burrito, the restaurant's Salvadoran specialties.
"Everybody is coming now to say goodbye," Lopez said. There are customers who once came as children "and now they come with their children. I love cooking and I love to talk and I love people. For me, everybody is very important. I will miss all my customers."
The restaurant has enjoyed its connection to the surrounding neighborhood which celebrated the restaurant with a recent party at a neighbor's home. Lita showed the Voice a note from a downtown resident who wrote to say she had been enjoying the resataurant's pupusas and other dishes since 1973. "I will miss you a lot. Thank you, too, for sharing your El Salvadoran culture with us," the note read.
A Chinese restaurant is set to move into the space after El Calderon closes, Lopez said.
Lopez said she would be spending her time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"There's no time when you work hard in your job, it's difficult," Lopez said. "Now I have beautiful grandchildren and beautiful great-grandchildren. I will be more involved in my family."
She says she plans to remain in Mountain View.
"When I stand on Calderon Avenue and look to the mountains, it's so beautiful," Lopez said. "I love Mountain View. I love Castro Street, it's so full of life. I appreciate everybody in the city of Mountain View."