Family illnesses force Taco Trio owners to close restaurants in Portland, South Portland

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The owners of popular Taco Trio have temporarily closed both their restaurants due to illnesses in the family.

An announcement posted on Facebook Oct. 27 said the Mexican restaurants at 119 Ocean St. in Knightville and 1706 Forest Ave. in Portland will be closed until early 2017 because of “major medical issues” and so that the owners can “focus all our time and energy on our family’s health.”

Husband-and-wife co-owners Manuel Pena and Karen Rasmussen, of South Portland, opened their first restaurant at the corner of Ocean and D streets five years ago. They added a food truck in 2014 and the second bricks-and-mortar location in Portland last year.

But both locations, known for authentic tacos, enchiladas and burritos served with a variety of freshly made salsas, closed this week.

Rasmussen on Thursday said she needs to tend to her father, who is ill and has been in and out of the hospital. Pena, meanwhile, is being treated for prostate cancer, which was diagnosed nearly two years ago.

“Looking at (Pena) coming in to more chemo, we just thought, we can’t do this, staying open with him not there full time,” Rasmussen said.

While Pena’s prognosis is much more positive than it was when he was initially diagnosed, and “the worst is over,” she said, devoting attention to two businesses and his recovery, and now her father’s, was too much to handle.

“In a way, we’ve been going through this for a year and a half without very many people knowing,” Rasmussen said.

If anything, she said, they’re looking at this break as an opportunity to rest and to get things accomplished at both stores that they otherwise wouldn’t have time for, since each one has been open seven days a week.

“We’re going to use the time to fix other things,” she said. “I just need to focus on Manny and my dad.”

Rasmussen said her family appreciates the concern that has been expressed by patrons, in person and in comments on Facebook.

“We don’t want people to worry. We’ll be fine,” Rasmussen said. “We just really need to take a break.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

The original Taco Trio at 119 Ocean St. in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood. The restaurant and a second location at 1706 Forest Ave. in Portland, closed this week until early 2017.

Manuel Pena, co-owner of Taco Trio, in the food truck the business added in 2014.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.