Founder of Pepito’s restaurants ‘brought a taste of Mexico to Dayton that everyone loved’

Ignacio Bucio (middle), founder of Pepito’s Mexican restaurant died on Aug. 20 in Dayton with family. Bucio is shown here with his daughters Veronica and Cassandra. CONTRIBUTED
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Ignacio Bucio (middle), founder of Pepito’s Mexican restaurant died on Aug. 20 in Dayton with family. Bucio is shown here with his daughters Veronica and Cassandra. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

The co-founder of a Mexican restaurant that brought joy to Dayton families for generations has died.

Ignacio Bucio, one-time owner and one of the founders of Pepito’s Mexican restaurant, died on Aug. 20 in Dayton.

For 38 years, Pepito’s Mexican restaurants fed the Dayton area before the last location at 3618 Wilmington Pike in Kettering closed in November 2018. Once Bucio’s younger brother Ramon Bucio came to Dayton, he became a co-founder and owned and operated his own Pepito’s restaurants.

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The local chain once boasted six restaurants throughout the Miami Valley and was well respected in the Dayton Latino community and the community at large.

Named after Ignacio, Pepito’s came from “Pepe” — Ignacio’s nickname, according to his daughter Veronica Bucio. Pepito means “Little Pepe.”

Ignacio Bucio, one time owner and a founder of Pepito’s Mexican restaurant died on Aug. 20 in Dayton with family.
Caption
Ignacio Bucio, one time owner and a founder of Pepito’s Mexican restaurant died on Aug. 20 in Dayton with family.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Bucio was born in Michoacan, Mexico in 1944. His entire life, Bucio celebrated his birthday on Dec. 29. However, according to his daughter, four years ago, Bucio went to Mexico to get his birth certificate and discovered his actual birth date was Dec. 20.

Coming from a large family, Bucio joined the Mexican Air Force at the age of 16 to help provide for his many siblings. Meanwhile, his grandfather would come to America for work, then send money home to Mexico to help support the family.

At 22 years old, Bucio became a sergeant and moved to America to continue supporting his family in Mexico as much as possible.

The love he had for his family was eventually extended to the Dayton community as he started and grew the Pepito’s restaurants.

“He was really respected in the community in Dayton, especially in the Latino (community),” Veronica Bucio said. “He gave a lot to the community as far as, you know, hosting fundraisers and sponsoring people and just giving to the people in need whenever they needed it. … He’s big on respecting people and family, whether it’s blood family or not, he just always wants to see people happy.”

Bucio had four children — all born and raised in Dayton.

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When Veronica, Bucio’s second oldest, looks back on growing up with the restaurant, she has happy school memories tied to her father. During what Veronica remembers as “culture weeks,” students would bring in a part of their family’s culture, or in Veronica’s case, her father himself.

“All the kids I went to school with, their parents all knew about Pepito’s,” Veronica Bucio said. “So they (students) would all get excited like, ‘Oh! Veronica’s dad, bring us food!’ And I even have friends that messaged me from elementary school and were like, ‘You know, we loved your dad, he always treated us like family when we came over. Always was cooking us food.’”

It seemed that food was both Bucio’s career and love language. Veronica remembers on Fridays and Saturdays when he’d be late working at the restaurant, she and her other siblings would stay up waiting for their dad.

The Pepito's Mexican restaurant at 2412 Catalpa Drive in Dayton,
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The Pepito's Mexican restaurant at 2412 Catalpa Drive in Dayton,

“Mom would get so mad, but we would stay up until he got home because when he got home he would cook us little tacos,” Veronica Bucio said. “As far as being in the restaurant, I remember there was always laughter and people just talking and having fun.”

Never the owner to stay in the back of house, Bucio’s daughter said he could always be found talking to guests, asking how people were doing and how their food was that night.

Here’s what Chris Bucio, the son of the Pepito’s Mexican Restaurant’s co-founder and owner, Ramon Bucio, told the Dayton Daily News in 2013, when the original Pepito’s on Catalpa Drive in north Dayton shut down after what was then 33 years in business:

“My father Ramon Bucio created the concept of Pepito’s with his brother Ignacio Bucio in 1980, and by the mid-1980s, Pepito’s became arguably the most well-regarded Mexican restaurant in the Miami Valley,” Chris Bucio said. … “(They) helped teach Daytonians how to enjoy and experience Mexican cuisine and culture at a time when Hispanics were not as easily accepted.”

Pepito’s is no longer turning out delicious, authentic Mexican food, but Bucio’s legacy lives on through his family and in the Dayton food community.

“He was just a great soul to be around and he touched so many lives,” Veronica Bucio said. “He helped so many people in so many ways and brought a taste of Mexico to Dayton that everyone loved.”

The former Pepito’s Mexican restaurant at 2412 Catalpa Drive in Dayton.
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The former Pepito’s Mexican restaurant at 2412 Catalpa Drive in Dayton.