Mi Pueblo is gone-o

Heading south on Central Avenue from Foothill Boulevard on Sunday, I noticed that the late Mi Pueblo restaurant in Upland was half-demolished.

I’ll admit upfront that I know absolutely nothing about Mi Pueblo. It’s been closed for months, if not years, with a chain-link fence around the property. It’s a large-sized, low-slung building on the east side of Central and may once have been popular. It’s at 11th Street and Central.

I’ll try to follow up with City Hall to see what’s planned there. In the interim, anyone know anything about the place?

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  • The location has been through several permutations over the years, with the most popular owner being “Vacant.”

    My only recollection of the place dates from the early 1990s, back when I was active in computer bulletin board systems and all of the BBS people would gather together at the bar, drink cold brown thingies, and talk about how wonderful DOS-based bulletin board software was in relation to that Windows stuff.

    Apparently the BBS crowd wasn’t enough to support the place, and the fact that I can’t even remember the name of the restaurant at the time, or the food that they served, indicates that it probably wouldn’t have placed highly in a restaurant review at the time.

  • Charles Bentley

    I don’t know anything about Mi Pueblo, but if it is the location I’m thinking of, the building was originally built as Benjies Restaurant.

    Benjies (I believe that is the correct spelling) was a family restaurant with booth and counter seating. They served breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu offering a mixture of diner/deli cuisine. If memory serves, there were other Benjies in Orange County, one off the 57 Fwy at Yorba Linda (now closed) and another one in either Santa Ana or Tustin (I believe it is still in operation).

    The food was good, the service friendly and I recall they were open late/early (maybe even 24 hours at one point). It was a very popular spot, especially for Sunday lunch. Toward the end I believe there was an attempt for offer a more high-end dinner menu.

    The building sat vacant for quite a while. I believe a couple of Mexican restaurants tried to make a go in that location.

    Hopefully others can help with additional details.

    [I knew I could count on you, Charles. — DA]

  • Chris Moran

    Some Upland Literary Noir: The last time I ate at Benjies was 1981, maybe ’82. The poet Robert Bly (Silence in the Snowy Fields, Iron John, etc. etc.) just finished a late night reading at the Claremont Colleges. I took him out for an after-reading meal.

    I was trying to extract a promise from him that he would publish a selection of works from the recently deceased Claremont poet Bert Meyers. Mr. Bly promised that he would publish it with the title “Twenty Poems of Bert Meyers.” It was never published.

    I had a bad taste in my mouth that night. Was it foretelling Bob Bly’s broken word or was it the overdone Double Benjie Burger? I’ll never know.

  • Donna Jean

    I have heard that they are going to build a senior citizens complex in that location.

    [I have a call in to the Planning Department so we’ll see if that’s true. We do need more senior housing. — DA]

  • ray escoto

    Before the Mexican Restaurants did we have Italian ???

  • Shirley wofford

    DiCensos (sp?) Italian Restaurant located there for a while after Benji’s but it didn’t work out.

    [Apparently Ray was right! — DA]

  • Donna

    I’m sorry that this is off topic but the closing of Mi Pueblo reminded me about Spikes. Does anyone know why Spike’s in Ontario is closed? For those history buffs, it was once called “Dragonland” and sold burgers.

    [Had never heard of Dragonland. What a great name. It reminds me of “dragonburgers” sold at Magic Castle Burgers on Foothill in Pomona, now Friar Tuck’s. As for Spike’s Teriyaki Bowl, I don’t know why it closed. — DA]

  • don j

    Dave, Dragonland on Mountain (then Spike’s, now gone) did have their own “Dragonburgers” that were quite good, affordable & distinctive — I think they had teriyaki in them? In high school we’d eat lunch there. They went well with 2-liters of then-new Jolt Cola, then only available (& only in that size) from Ralph’s, up on 4th & Mountain.

  • Phil Carty

    In the early ’60s the DiCenso family had a small italian restaurant on Second Street several blocks east of the General Dynamics plant. I was stationed at GD with the US Navy representative (the GD complex was government-owned). My Navy friend and I would take our brown-bags to DiCenso’s, buy a drink and eat lunch on their small patio behind the restaurant.

    Later they moved to Foothill and took over Mateo’s (my recollection). My wife, Diane, and I hosted our wedding rehearsal dinner there in April 1965.

    I believe that the DiCenso family then developed the NW corner of Benson and Foothill, with two storefronts for their restaurant and “Mama’s Trattoria.”

    Evidently their last move was to the empty Bengie’s before it became Mi Ranchero, then Mi Pueblo.

    I don’t remember all the family members, but there was (of course) Mama and Papa, son Tony, and one daughter Pia.

    [Thanks, Phil. And I think I’ve mentioned in a different post that Pia is, or at least was last time I heard, a hostess at Cafe Montclair. — DA]

  • Jodi

    The mention of DiCenso’s is very interesting to me. That was my great- grandparents’ restaurant!

    You are correct in remembering my grandparents, Giovanni and Lydia, Auntie Pia, and Uncle Tony. There was also my grandma, the youngest, Finevia. All of my mom’s generation (which would be the grandchildren) worked at the restaurant too. The fact that you mention the garden is very cool! That was my favorite place to go! The restaurant was such a beautiful place to go and peaceful too, yet exciting!

    I’ll never forget my great-grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary held in the banquet room. It was the biggest, loudest…truly Italian celebration I’d ever been to! Amazing! I’m so glad to hear that you have such fond memories of it! I do too! Mangiare felice!

  • randy

    I have great memories of DiCenso’s. I was a waiter there in the early ’80s and worked there with Mama, Papa, Pia, Tony and the rest. It was a great, crazy time and Pia was a mentor that impacted my later career in the restaurant industry.
    Oh, and their homemade lasagna was the best. I miss it.

    • Rick Flores

      I love this restaurant! I grew up eating at the Second street location then the Foothil one. Later, in high school, I worked there from 1978 to 1981. It was amazing cooking in the kitchen with Tina. I think it was the most amazing Italian food I’ve ever eaten in my life. To this day the Time I spent there continues to influence the way I cook today. And I have to say that it was such a amazing fun place to work with such a colorful family whose members had such unique personalities! Mama, Papa, Pia, Fine, Tina , Tony and all the grandkids. The waitstaff was a load of laughs too. I have so many stories I could share from that time in my life. Such memories!