By Gene Glasco
Manuel de Jesus Romero, owner and operator of Rod’s Grill for 25 years, passed away in Paramount, Calif. on Jan. 27, 2021 from COVID and related complications. He was 67 years old. Known to friends and patrons as “Manny,” he was an immigrant from Zacatecas, Mexico. In 1975 Manny officially made his home in the United States after marrying his wife, Maria del Rosario Rodriguez. Maria and Manny were married for 42 and half years until Maria passed away in 2017.
Manny was a caring friend to many, an upstanding citizen of his adopted country and dedicated restaurateur who provided wholesome food to the community and for many of its old school citizens kept alive youthful memories of standing in a long line on the sidewalk to get a seat after a Friday night football game, dipping French fries in a side Rod’s famous bleu cheese dressing, and the polished customized cars that filled Rod’s parking lot on Saturday nights.
Manny traveled from Torrance to Arcadia every day and worked very hard — many times putting in 14-hour days to nurture his iconic restaurant and grow his business. He was proud of Rod’s and created dishes that people love. One of his many menu creations was the Manny Burger. The Manny Burger almost covered the plate and is not one for the light eater. Most of the time the Manny Burger was shared between two people because of its very large size. Manny loved taking pictures and videos. During the dedication of the Arcadia Vietnam War Memorial in 2016, and unbeknownst to me, he captured on video a poignant part of the ceremony. A few days later, with tears in his eyes, he shared the video clip with me. In addition to the many hours he spent at his “home away from home,” Manny enjoyed cutting the grass at his family home and more importantly spending time with his daughters and grandchildren. According to his family, Manny “truly was a child at heart and had a great sense of humor.” As anyone who has dined at Rod’s Grill will attest to, Manny was always welcoming and greeted everyone with a warm smile. Manny was well beloved and had a heart of gold.
Manny will be missed, not only for sustaining one of Arcadia’s last standing restaurants “Before the Big Mac,” but for his generosity, patriotism and respect for our Veterans and service members. One of his many random acts of kindness occurred on Memorial Day weekend in 2019. The Arcadia War Memorial was holding a three-year anniversary celebration across the street from Rod’s in the Arcadia County Park. In connection with that event, Manny graciously offered to pay for any veteran or service member’s breakfast at Rod’s. All they had to say was, “I’m a veteran,” and that was good enough for Manny. Manny enjoyed serving the community and being present at a variety of events.
Manuel “Manny” de Jesus Romero is survived by his three daughters and his five grandchildren.
On behalf of the City of Arcadia, please join me and the many Rod’s customers who loved him in extending our deepest condolences to Manny’s family, his loved ones and his devoted Rod’s Grill employees.
Dios te bendiga Manny mi amigo. RIP.