Puerto Ricans Mourn Founder of Casa Adela

An altar with floral arrangements and candles honors the memory of Adela Fargas outside Casa Adela. (Photo via El Diario)

On Monday, Adela Fargas died of a cerebral thrombosis. She had migrated from Puerto Rico with little more than joy in her words and her cooking skills, the tools with which she opened Casa Adela, the iconic Loisaida – Lower East Side – restaurant that became a must for New York politicians and artists passing through the Big Apple. Fargas was 81.

“Her heart was a little fragile. She was not feeling well on Monday afternoon; she had a stroke. We ran to the hospital, but the doctors who worked on her were unable to do anything. She left us,” said Abigail Rivera, Fargas’ daughter.

Casa Adela opened its doors in 1973 at 66 Avenue C, where it still is today and where, Rivera said, they hope to stay for many more years.

“(My brother) Luis and I will keep the restaurant open. That was her wish. Now I understand why she taught us to cook her recipes from an early age. In the kitchen, we are a team of four people. That is the way it will stay for now.”

Outside of Casa Adela, friends and regular customers have been leaving flowers and candles in memory of Fargas, who was considered the neighborhood’s matriarch and the pillar of a nearly legendary culinary tradition among the city’s Puerto Rican and Hispanic communities.

Adela Fargas always offered her customers a warm welcome. (Photo via El Diario)

Fargas perfected a recipe of spices to make roasted chicken that turned the dish into the most popular one in the eatery over the years, according to dozens of testimonies posted by customers on social media. The restaurant had other Puerto Rican classics on the menu, such as mofongo, roasted pork, beef stew, beefsteak with onions, fried pork chops and arroz con dulce – sweet rice – for dessert.

Casa Adela’s Facebook page contains pictures of Fargas with celebrities who had recently visited the restaurant to taste her homemade food, including actress Rosario Dawson, singers Rubén Blades, Tito Nieves, Tony Vega and Iris Chacón, as well as Edgardo Miranda, creator of the “La Borinqueña” comic book.

“My mother had a very special type of charisma. She was warm and welcoming. At the restaurant, she made her customers feel as if they were eating their grandma’s food. We will continue her legacy with the recipes she created and taught us to prepare, which are part of a tradition.”

In recent times, Fargas had decided not to modernize her delivery service with an app because she did not conceive serving her clientele that way. Although someone created the app and began promoting it, Fargas overruled it, according to her Facebook page.

The funeral service in memory of Adela Fargas will take place on Friday, Jan. 19, from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Ortiz Funeral Home, located at 22 First Ave. in Loisaida, Manhattan.

“She will be buried in Puerto Rico because that was always her wish: to rest in eternal peace on her island,” said Rivera.

Nydia Velázquez on Fargas’ legacy

In a statement, New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D) expressed her condolences over the passing of Adela Fargas, whom she described as a “wise Latina” and an entrepreneur who served authentic Puerto Rican food to locals and tourists alike for more than four decades.

“To pay a visit to Casa Adela was like stepping into the warmth of a Puerto Rican neighbor’s home. Adela herself welcomed all New Yorkers to delicious Puerto Rican food surrounded by the island’s spirit of hospitality and generosity. Outside the restaurant’s walls, Adela was a center of Latino life on the Lower East Side and a tireless community advocate,” said the congresswoman, who is also Puerto Rican.

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