Iconic Restaurant to close after 45 years of business
On January 22, 1979, an Italian-American entrepreneur named Leo Sciuto embarked on an unexpected culinary journey. Despite his Italian heritage, he chose to open a Mexican restaurant named Tio Leo’s on Mission Gorge, much to the surprise of many.
Leo’s passion for Mexican cuisine stemmed from his love for exploring the diverse gastronomic landscape of San Diego. Every Saturday, he would gather his family for a culinary adventure, venturing into different local Mexican restaurants to savor the authentic flavors and vibrant atmosphere. This deep-seated appreciation for Mexican cuisine inspired him to bring his own touch to the table.
Leo’s foray into the restaurant business wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. He had already established a successful career in nightclubs and bars, but as his children grew older, he yearned for a family-oriented venture. At the age of 50, Leo made a bold career shift, transforming himself into a restaurateur and dedicating himself to sharing his passion for Mexican cuisine with the community.
Tio Leo’s quickly became a beloved neighborhood staple, serving up authentic Mexican fare that delighted San Diegans for 45 years. Leo’s legacy not only transcended his culinary creations but also extended to his family. Each of his 15 grandchildren spent time working at the restaurant, fostering a strong connection to their grandfather’s passion and the cherished memories of family gatherings over delicious Mexican dishes.
Sadly, Leo’s life was cut short during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving a void in the hearts of his family, friends, and the community. Yet, his legacy continues to thrive through the restaurant’s enduring popularity and the unwavering dedication of his family members.
The decision to close the original Tio Leo’s location on December 31, 2023, marks the end of an era, but it also represents a new chapter in the Sciuto family’s journey. The property’s sale allows them to cherish cherished memories and pursue new endeavors, while the restaurant’s spirit lives on through the love of Mexican cuisine and the family’s commitment to serving the community.