Ricardo Piña has been running his taco truck, Ricky’s Fish Tacos, for more than a decade. His Ensenada-style fish and shrimp tacos have landed him on The Travel Channel’s Top 10 list of restaurants to try in LA. The Food Network named his fish tacos number one in the country.
Piña’s recipe was inspired by his mom and grandma. He tells KCRW that his batter consists of oregano, baking powder, mustard, mayo and no eggs.
When he started in 2009, he was the only street vendor in LA County who made Ensenada-style fish tacos. “It went unnoticed for a couple months, but man after that, it was a success. I had a line of people on the sidewalk waiting for their tacos, then I had to get an extra fryer and extra help. Three years after that, I got the truck. The rest is history,” he says.
Piña explains that his routine involves getting up at 5:30 a.m. to go to LA’s markets to get the freshest fish, shrimp, tomatoes, and other produce. Then he preps the food, and at 10 a.m. he opens to the public.
Customers still came during the COVID-19 crisis.
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Now in his mid 50s, Piña has decided to sell his business and retire. He says, “It's a lot of work. And who doesn't dream of retiring? Second, it's been a long journey. … Also I kind of miss my hometown, Baja, and my family. I'm single, I'm a loner. And so when you're over 50 … you’re thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
He continues, “I love to serve people, but I would like to enjoy another part of my life too, which is enjoying time by myself or maybe traveling and reconnecting with my roots. My family, kind of miss them too.”
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Piña says before the pandemic, customers hung out by his taco truck and took their dates there. “I met wonderful couples, I made friends. People that were dating … and then they get married and they keep coming back, and they bring their kids now. Unfortunately, things like that, you no longer see them because of the pandemic.”
He says he’s not sure what will happen with the pandemic.
“When you build a business based on smiles of people, on people bringing their own to meet you, and to get you out of the truck, to get a picture with you, when you build your business based on people's happiness, it's kind of hard to not miss. And it’s going to be hard to stay afloat with the same attitude and the same smiles that you're used to.”
He says doesn’t want his business to fail and be taken over by investors, and the product suffers.
Instead, he aims to pass it onto maybe another chef who wants to break into LA’s food industry.
“I would like to pass on the tradition, more than just selling it. I would love to find someone with a lot of energy and passion and can fall in love with the recipe and the process. And if there's anything they can do to make them better, go ahead.”
He says Ricky’s Fish Tacos is not just a truck. “It’s a whole business, and for the last 10 years, I haven't expanded my business. It has stayed small. But it is ready to expand.”
Piña isn’t leaving until he finds the right buyer, whether it takes six months or a year.
In the meantime, he’ll still be selling fish tacos at 3061 Riverside Drive in Los Feliz.