Business & Economy

El Torito restaurant founder Larry Cano dies at 90

Palm trees frame the entrance to a El Torito Restaurant in Cypress, Calif., in this file photo taken Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. El Torito founder Larry Cano, who helped popularize Mexican food with the U.S. masses, has died at age 90.
Palm trees frame the entrance to a El Torito Restaurant in Cypress, Calif., in this file photo taken Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. El Torito founder Larry Cano, who helped popularize Mexican food with the U.S. masses, has died at age 90.
Chris Carlson/AP

Larry J. Cano, the founder of the El Torito restaurant chain who helped popularize Mexican food with the U.S. masses, has died at age 90.

His former longtime assistant Lee Healy confirmed Cano's death for The Associated Press on Monday. He died of pancreatic cancer Wednesday at his home in Corona Del Mar, California.

Cano, who served as a fighter pilot during World War II, took over a closed-down Polynesian restaurant in Los Angeles in 1954 and turned it into the first El Torito.

He served a mild version of Mexican food that was friendly to mid-century American tastes and expanded to 22 locations by the time he sold the chain in 1978.

He stayed on as president, overseeing the opening of nearly 200 outlets by his 1988 retirement.