Ricardo Valerio often tells his customers at Urbano’s Taqueria located in Lafayette Louisiana; that he fits the world inside of a tortilla. What he doesn’t always tell them is just how he has been able to do that.
The Honduran immigrant began selling limes on the side of the road in his native country at the age of 12. He moved onto oranges and later steaks, saving his money along the way.
By 19, he opened a bar in Honduras.
“It’s determination, not money,” Valerio says. “That’s what builds success.”
Valerio, now 30, says his father worked hard to afford him the opportunity to attend school at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His father had graduated from UL (then the University of Southwestern Louisiana) in 1974.
“I remember he would talk about America like it was the most beautiful thing ever,” Valerio said, breaking down in tears. “So I came here, and I worked hard. I worked hard, hard, hard.”
He worked as many as five jobs at a time – cutting grass, pressure washing, cleaning pools and houses, doing maintenance, parking cars, driving for UL’s transit system, painting, washing dishes and waiting tables – all while attending school.
Valerio says he slept only two to three hours per night and woke every morning thinking about his dreams.
“Why did Donald Trump come into this world? Bill Gates? Justin Bieber?” he says. “I want to answer that question for me.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in industrial design in 2008 from UL and a second bachelor’s in business management in 2010, Valerio struggled to find professional work.
He spent his days working as a waiter for Tampico Restaurant and reading books written by those who had found great success.
“I started learning a little about the restaurant industry, and I thought, well, I could bring something different to the table,” Valerio said. “I learned how to multitask, how to be strong, how to be disciplined and how to build the customer relationship.”
Valerio studied the fast-casual restaurant industry and made the decision to open up his own restaurant. He designed Urbano’s and constructed everything with the help of friends and family instead of a professional contractor.
He also enlisted the help of friends and family to craft 100 different tacos. Of those, 42 were approved for the restaurant and 28 made it onto the menu, which ranges from traditional to fusion to downright fun.
Valerio opened his restaurant in January 2013 and the eclectic taco spot on Pinhook quickly gained a following through word-of-mouth. Later that year, he opened a food truck version of Urbano’s.
“We have new customers coming into our door every single day,” he says. “And we see the same customers who come in three or four days a week. And we know that means we’re doing something right.”
Just a year later, Valerio purchased the area’s Bullritos franchise and announced bold plans for both companies.
First, he will close the Johnston Street location of Bullritos and reopen the storefront as a second location of Urbano’s. He hopes to have the new location of Urbano’s open by April.
Next, Valerio will renovate and make minor changes over the summer to the Bullritos location on Kaliste Saloom.
Valerio is also planning to open a new location of Bullritos in Broussard by the fall and open new locations of Urbano’s in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. He is also searching in the New Iberia area for space to build an Urbano’s manufacturing facility.
“Bullritos is a franchise company, and we want Urbano’s to become a franchise,” he says. “We want to learn from both concepts and become stronger and better.”
Even seeing so much success in such a short amount of time, Valerio remains humble and says he just wants to work and see people smile. But little by little, his hard work is paying off.
A man whose office Valerio once cleaned visited Urbano’s recently to discuss investment opportunities.
“I cleaned his office, and he would never even look at me,” Valerio said. “I asked him if he remembered the guy who used to clean the office. I said, ‘My name is Ricardo. I was that guy.’
“I don’t determine who somebody is by their mistakes.”
As he looks around at his restaurant and tells the story of how it became a reality, Valerio points out the wood on the counters and tables.
“Here we are, making the future of ourselves, and it’s a blessing,” he said. “Every piece of wood has a different story, just like each of us.”
2023 W Pinhook Rd, Lafayette, LA 70508 · Lafayette
Mon – Thu10:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Fri – Sat10:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Sun10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Casual · Family Friendly
More about Traditional Honduras Food