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A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Carlos Rivero

By: Jennifer Arzola Last Updated: July 20, 2022

Owning the only Spanish restaurant in Indiana would be one thing, but Valparaiso resident Carlos Rivero sees his restaurant Don Quijote as much more.

To Rivero, Don Quijote is a place where our community can relax with loved ones, enjoy good food and wine, and support each other.

Don Quijote restaurant has been a fixture in Downtown Valparaiso for 37 years. Celebrating traditional Spanish cuisine, Rivero only brings fresh ingredients into his kitchen.

Rivero is so focused on where his ingredients come from that he dedicated an acre-and-a-half of his land to a garden restaurant.

“During the summer, everything that I cook here at the restaurant, every vegetable comes from my garden,” Rivero said.

Throughout the winter months, Rivero works closely with Spanish exporters to hand-select each item.

He learned this tradition of care and dedication to his craft early on. Rivero sees his parents as key influences in his career and kitchen. 

“My parents had a farm,” Rivero said. “[They also had] a store where you could buy anything—from a pair of pliers to a cup of soup or a glass of wine. So practically I grew up under a table.”

Not only did Rivero grow up with access to fresh food, but his father was also a chef. This tradition continued with Rivero and his brothers.

“My brothers and I had restaurants in Madrid,” Rivero said. “Then I met my wife. She had to come back [to the United States], so in 1972, I decided to follow her.”

In 1984, after years of working in the steel mills, Rivero then had the funds to open the Spanish restaurant that he’d been hoping for. After searching throughout NWI for a location, Rivero found the perfect spot in Valparaiso. Don Quijote has been there ever since.

Over almost 40 years, Rivero has seen Valparaiso change and improve—even adding some improvements of his own. 

“I put the first outdoor dining space in Valparaiso,” Rivero said. “Now everybody has outdoor dining. It’s one of the most popular things in [Valparaiso].”

As a frequent customer of other restaurants, Rivero is proud to be among other great chefs in Valparaiso.

“[Valparaiso] is one of the best cities in the area - probably even further - for quality restaurants,” Rivero said. “We are equal to Chicago in the quality of the restaurants that we have. Valpo is amazing, it is incredible.”

Supporting local groups is a driving force for Rivero and Don Quijote.

From close to home to far away, Rivero believes that Don Quijote can be a place where people both feel at home and find a way to reach out.

Case in point, Rivero recently added a Ukrainian flag to the Spanish flag on the façade of the restaurant. Working to support the people of Ukraine, Rivero and his team hosted a benefit that donated more than $20,500 for the Red Cross efforts in Ukraine.

Additionally, Rivero is excited about two important events close to his heart occurring this fall.

On August 14th, Don Quijote will be hosting a benefit dinner for VNA Meals on Wheels. The goal of the fundraiser is to feed seniors throughout our community with hot meals delivered to their doors. Tickets for this event are still available.

In October, Rivero is proud to support Hilltop House with a similar benefit.

“Sometimes we decide to ignore the fact that there is so much to give,” Rivero said. “I would like to ask everybody to look in our community and find a place or organization that allows us to help. Let me tell you, there is no one more generous than this community.”

“I'm a happy person. I love what I do. I love the restaurant business. I love my job, and I wouldn't change it for anything in the world," said Rivero.

Locals hoping to attend a benefit at Don Quijote or have a meal can visit the restaurant’s Facebook page for updates.