When it comes to Cathy and Miguel Esquivel, you can have your cake and eat it too. And your carnitas. And your quesadillas.  In fact, any cuisine prepared by the Esquivels’ capable hands is simply delicious. Which is why Mexican Riviera Restaurant and Cake Art by Cathy are Riviera treasures.

Where The Food is the Fiesta 

Since 1989, Mexican Riviera restaurant has been the go-to spot for locals craving homemade Mexican food at a great price.

Miguel and Cathy Esquivel were only 26 and 23 when they opened the restaurant, just 2 months before they got married. After working in restaurants for several years, Miguel dreamed of owning his own place. When they heard of a restaurant vacancy in the shopping plaza on Pacific Coast Highway and Anza, they jumped at the chance.

Both of their families rolled up their sleeves to help with getting the location ready and the restaurant off the ground. While Miguel cooked, Cathy served as waitress and the two of them stayed up late into the night washing dishes.

In those early days the Mexican Riviera menu consisted of 8 combo plates. Today, the restaurant features 27 combos, the most popular of which is carnitas, tender braised pork. And in addition to Cathy and Miguel, you’re likely to find their children, Erika, Elizabeth and Michael, pitching in to wait on customers or help behind the stove.

Something else you’ll find at Mexican Riviera is loyal customers.

“One gentlemen comes in every single day for dinner,” says Cathy. “We have many regulars who always order the same thing, so we know exactly what to prepare the minute they walk in. One of our customers always asks the waitress to order for him. And one couple drives up regularly from Long Beach for our tortas.”

After 26-plus years in business, Cathy and Miguel have also experienced many life events with their customers. One woman started coming there with her parents as a baby. She recently had her wedding catered by Mexican Riviera.

Another couple who came in regularly always ordered taquitos. When they passed, their children hired the restaurant to cater their funeral receptions and serve – what else – taquitos.

“We’re always honored to be part of our customers’ lives,” says Cathy. “We’re like one big family.”

Being part of the community is important to Cathy and Miguel. The restaurant has hosted numerous fundraisers for local students with medical needs, deceased parents and other crises.

The restaurant’s breakfast burrito is so popular among South High students, it’s known as the Spartan burrito. In fact, Cathy and Miguel were up at 3 am last June making almost 400 breakfast burritos for the seniors arriving back to campus from the annual grad night outing.

And Now for Dessert 

Cathy’s passion for Mexican Riviera is matched by her enthusiasm for her cake business, Cake Art by Cathy. Over the past 20 years she had baked and designed more than 350 cakes for customers.

Keep in mind that these are not your run of the mill cakes. A better term for them would be edible works of art. Some of her cake designs have included a shark with a foot coming out of its mouth, a camera-shaped cake (for a photographer), an octopus attacking a submarine (for a military man serving on a sub); a trash truck, a minion cake and even a piñata that won the Palos Verdes Fair cake contest.

And each cake is as tasty on the tongue as it is on the eyes, featuring such flavors as chocolate, vanilla, marble, red velvet, strawberry and banana.

Cathy attends a confectionary art convention in Las Vegas each year to perfect her cake artistry, and some of her more elaborate designs take up to 14 hours to complete. In addition to creating cakes for birthdays, weddings, graduations, quinceaneras and more, Cathy has taught cupcake decorating during summer school at Saint Lawrence School for a dozen years.

She also does cupcake decorating birthday parties, where she provides the supplies, the instruction and the fun for guests who get to bring home their edible creations.

So whether you’re craving carnitas or cupcakes, local residents Cathy and Miguel have you covered.

Bring in this newsletter to get ½ off your second entree when you visit Mexican Riviera Restaurant, located at 4239 Pacific Coast Highway in Torrance (between Ross and CVS), and be sure to enter this month’s raffle for a $25 gift certificate to the restaurant. Mexican Riviera Restaurant is open daily from 8am to 9:30 pm (closed at 9pm on Sundays). You can find them online at Mexriv.com and via phone at  310-373-6600.

To reach Cake Art by Cathy, call 310-951-2992.