For nearly 12 years Chuck’s Familia has been closed, and there has been a hole in Robert Estrada’s heart.
Estrada, 27, is the grandson to the founder of the restaurant that once called downtown Newton home — and though he was still in high school when the place shuttered its doors, he has missed it. Until now. Estrada is reopening Joaquin and Belen Estrada’s family restaurant in a new location — Cedar Villiage Shopping Mall.
“If my Dad were still around, he would be very excited,” said Stanley Estrada, Robert’s father.
For those who remember Chuck’s, there is reason for them to be excited as well. The famous cheese dip and recipes are back.
“When I was 14, I helped with the cooking and learned all the recipes,” Robert Estrada said.
Robert Estrada still remembers the date the restaurant first opened — Feb. 20, 1988. He was about 5 years old at the time, and he wanted to be involved.
The whole family — Robert Estrada’s aunts, uncles, mother, father and cousins were a part of the restaurant during its 11-year run on Main Street.
For the kids who were too young to work in the kitchen, there were other things to do.
“We danced in the restaurant for entertainment,” Robert Estrada said. “I always enjoyed the restaurant business. ... I was always there.”
Named Chuck’s because no one could pronounced Joaquin, the restaurant became a mainstay for Newton diners until it closed in October 1999.
Robert, however, never gave up on the idea of Chuck’s being part of the culinary landscape of Newton.
“It’s always been my dream to do this,” Robert Estrada said.
The new location, farther south and a bit smaller, has advantages in his mind. First, having a smaller restaurant will let him grow the business over time, plus the location should, according to Robert Estrada, attract business from the south end of Newton which has grown during the past 10 years.
He expects opening day, March 4, to be a big day for his entire family.
“Everyone knows the name,” Robert Estrada said. “Even though my grandfather is gone, there are people who knew my grandfather well that are backing us. Even though he is gone, it’s because of him and his reputation that this is able to happen.”
Plus, the rest of the Estrada family. Robert said he plans to have about 20 employees when the restaurant opens, but the family will be a key cog in the wheel.
“There are a lot of family that want to be here and help out voluntarily when we open,” Robert said.
“This is a place we can all get together again,” Stanley Estrada added. “We can all work together again.”
Robert said the full menu will not be offered on day one — he wants to train the cooks to prepare everything to his —more accurately his grandfather’s — standards before selling a dish to customers.
“All the cooking will be the same,” Robert Estrada said. “There are select items that won’t be on the menu right away, I want to be sure all the cooks are trained right. We’ll add a new item every month or so.”