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“The whole plaza here, Plaza Latina is like a family to everyone.”

Spanish music blares outside Plaza Latina on Milvan Drive near Finch Avenue West, located right at the boundary of the Thistletown neighbourhood in Etobicoke.

The mall looks like it hasn’t changed in 28 years, but there’s something special about this place.

According to its Instagram page, the plaza is home to more than 35 businesses, representing 12 different countries.

“People come here with their kids. They sit around, the kids eat, they run around,” says Martha Quintero, owner of La Fuente del Puro Sabor, a natural juice shop at the mall.

“This is our, put it this way, a little city from where we come from. We have kitchens from Ecuador, Columbia, Chile, Peru, El Salvador, Cuba. We have a bakery, hair salon, we have a barber.”

If you enter the main entrance and venture to the food court you will see a wide variety of Latin cuisine and each business is family owned.

Food at Plaza Latina in Toronto
Empanadas at Plaza Latina in Toronto. CITYNEWS/Stella Acquisto

Quintero says her natural juice shop that has been around since this place opened.

“Plaza Latina started in 1994. I started three months after they opened it up.”

La Fuente del Puro Sabor at Plaza Latina in Toronto
Martha Quintero, owner of La Fuente del Puro Sabor, a natural juice shop at Plaza Latina in Toronto. CITYNEWS/Stella Acquisto

 

The 61-year-old moved from Ecuador to Canada when she was 10 years old, later got married, had children, and started this business.

“Monday to Friday it’s myself, Saturday and Sunday I bring my daughter, she gives me a hand. When I started it was the whole family here. My kids would help me pick up the glasses, put the chair, tables in, help me bring the fruits because I specialize in natural fruit juices,” she said.

A few stalls down from Quintero’s juice shop is where you will find Tito Gallardo and his Ecuadorian restaurant called Comedor Popular Ecuatoriano.

Comedor Popular Ecuatoriano at Plaza Latina in Toronto
Tito Gallardo at his Ecuadorian restaurant Comedor Popular Ecuatoriano at Plaza Latina in Toronto. CITYNEWS/Stella Acquisto

“I took over for my uncle, so he retired, so I took over. I was working at another place,” says Gallardo.

That was 12 years ago. Now his kitchen is operated by him, his wife, aunt and uncle.

Gallardo says people not only travel to Plaza Latina from across the city, but even across the country. He says the best part about this place is the family atmosphere.

“The whole plaza here, Plaza Latina is like a family to everyone. This is the only thing we have so we try to help each other and we are doing great.”



Home away from home: Plaza Latina in Thistletown has a family atmosphere

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