Kobe Bryant fans are honoring the late athlete by flocking to one of his favorite California restaurants. Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on January 26, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, was a regular at El Camino Real in Orange County.
“I wanted to have lunch here where Kobe used to have his meals,” customer Margie Aguirre recently told KABC-7. Another patron, Melissa Hidalgo, who had never been to El Camino Real before, explained: “I drive by it and I thought today would be a day to come by and order some carnitas and flan. It was just my own way to pay some respect to Kobe Bryant and the family.”
The basketball legend, who was 41 when he died, had been frequenting the eatery for years. He was first introduced to it by his wife, Vanessa Bryant, when the pair were dating over two decades ago. According to the restaurant’s manager, Rodolfo Garcia, Kobe never asked for preferential treatment on any of his visits. “I remember when he told me he wanted to be treated as a customer,” Garcia recalled. “[He would say], ‘Please do not treat me as a star because I want to feel like a regular customer.’”
To that end, the former L.A. Lakers star would stand in line with other customers and wait for his food to be prepared. His favorite dishes were apparently the carne asada tostada, carnitas and flan, complete with a cantaloupe agua fresca.
Kobe, who spent several years in Italy and was fluent in the language, even learned Spanish so he could speak to his Latino fans in Southern California, including those who worked at El Camino Real. Per FOX 11, if the restaurant was ever too crowded when Kobe stopped by, the staff would set a table for him in the back room. “He was a respectful guy,” an employee told the outlet.
Kobe fans have also been paying tribute to him by stopping by the Immigrant Son Cafe in Ventura, California, and ordering lattes with his picture in it.
Since the Calabasas, California, crash, Vanessa, 37, has taken to social media multiple times to pay tribute to her late husband and daughter. On Wednesday, February 5, the model shared a photo from a jersey retirement ceremony at Gianna’s school. “My Gianna. God I miss you. I’ve been so lucky to have woken up to see your gorgeous face and amazing smile for 13 years,” she wrote. “Wish it would’ve been until my last breath.”
Vanessa paid tribute to Kobe on Wednesday as well. “#mybestfriend #theBestdaddy Miss you so much,” she captioned a picture of her spouse smiling into the camera while wearing a Mamba Sports Academy sweatshirt. “#handsome #sweet #funny #silly #lovinghusband ❤️Miss you saying, “Bonjourno principessa/reina.”
In the days after the accident, Vanessa, who also shared daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months, with Kobe, announced that the Mamba Sports Foundation had created a new fund to provide resources to the families of the victims.
“To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org,” she wrote at the time. “To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️.”Listen on Spotify to Us Weekly's Hot Hollywood as each week the editors of Us break down the hottest entertainment news stories!
For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!