Emily Fritz | A&E Editor
“Secrets of my grandparents”
After 340 days without a brick-and-mortar location, Secretos de mis Abuelos finally reopened its doors in Homestead at 145 East 8th Ave. on Dec. 16.
As one of the only authentic Puerto Rican restaurants in Pittsburgh, Secretos de mis Abuelos is among Yelp’s “Top 25 Places to Eat in Pittsburgh.” The focal point of the menu features five entree options, each of them accompanied by three sides and a salad. All together, Secretos de mis Abuelos offers more than 1,000 combinations for guests looking to explore the Boriken side of their palette.
The conception of Secretos de mis Abuelos began in August of 2019 in the Primo Cuts barbershop – one of the only Puerto Rican barber shops in Western Pennsylvania. Talking with the staff, Secretos de mis Abuelos founder Felipe Crespo (Duquesne ‘22) discovered that there was a hole in the Pittsburgh restaurant scene: authentic Boricua food.
“I had a chance to really show [the food to] people that are unfamiliar with the culture … and bring a bit of nostalgia for people that had been removed from it,” Crespo told The Duke. “Every dish that’s on the menu has some kind of resemblance to or memory of home. That’s what makes it extra passionate for me.”
Crespo began his journey with food in his family’s kitchen. He began by helping with dishes, then prep work, then learning the recipes and helping to cook meals.
“It was a progressive act for sure,” he said. “It was a huge part of my life.”
Beginning in an apartment kitchen, Secretos de mis Abuelos graduated to a food truck parked on Crane Avenue in March of 2021 before opening a storefront on Fifth Avenue that September. Through no fault of theirs, the building was in disrepair, and the staff was forced out by a building foreclosure in January 2023.
“We struggled, grinded through it, and [now we’re] back better than ever,” said investor Doug Raible.
The young brand was able to survive through catering and pop-up events. Now, with the doors open to eager restaurant-goers, the team looks toward the future for additional locations in Florida. With a larger Latinx demographic, Raible and Crespo are eager to expand closer to Puerto Rico.
“There is a ton of demand for more cultural items [in Florida],” Raible said. “It would be a great opportunity for the fast-casual space, so it’s kind of a blend of pleasure between living there and the need for [authentic food] in the community.”
Dedication to the betterment of the Latinx community is a cornerstone of Secretos de mis Abuelos’ foundation. Working with Casa San Jose, a non-profit organization focused on connection, support and advocacy, Crespo has been able to share his culinary gifts with Pittsburgh youth.
“He is a great human being,” said executive director Monaca Ruiz-Caraballo. “I got to know him … He’s a really talented young man. He’s very kind; he’s very smart. And so, I didn’t want to let those talents go to waste. I asked him right away if he would consider volunteering.”
Crespo has led weekly culinary demonstrations, sat on guest panels, worked in youth facilities and donated to the organization.
“In Pittsburgh we don’t get to see a lot of people that look like us, [that] we can look up to,” Ruiz-Caraballo said. “He definitely fits that role, and the kids love him.”
“It was always [my grandparents’] dream to have their own food spot, so I give back to them by serving their recipes on the food truck,” said Crespo on the Secretos de mis Abuelos website. “[It is] also important to me because I can bring Latin community to an area lacking in cultural diversity.”
Foodies can catch the Secretos de mis Abuelos crew celebrating Latin Night on Jan. 21 beginning at 4 p.m. In celebration of Crespo’s birthday, the venue will be hosting the musical talents of DJ Samuel Andres alongside a special drinks menu and discounted food.
The restaurant is open for dining, delivery and catering from Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. Order takeout at www.secretospgh.com or delivery on DoorDash or UberEats.
“We just want to continue growing our brand, providing an amazing product at a good price, and continue to expand the culture as well as our business,” Raible said. “That’s the end goal for us.”