El Paso—El Paso is known for being the Sun City but it is what happens when the sun goes down that makes a little restaurant in the center of the city an eerie stop with some really good eats.
Now your curiosity will catapult as soon as you pull up to Monteleone’s Ristorante. The façade of this not so fancy building is covered with crazy things but until you head inside you have no idea what is in store.
“When I brought them here I’m like, ‘Are you guys ready for this?'” said customer, Armando Ramirez.
The first thing you have to check off the list when visiting Monteleone’s is making sure you come in the right entrance.
“Definitely the back entrance, just because it’s the… spookiest,” said Armando.
“It’s kind of creepy,” added another customer, Crystal Villegas.
“Kind of a speakeasy feel to it,” explained Gary Monteleone.
Gary grew up in El Paso and in 2001 the former Hollywood set designer opened up this eclectic restaurant with his wife, Laura, to carry on his family’s tradition of authentic Italian cuisine.
“My grandparents were from Reggio Calabria, Italy. Real close to Sicily,” he said.
Homemade ravioli, the perfect pizzas, pasta, and flowing red wine bring in foodies from far reaches of the state, but so does the possibility of a frightening experience.
“I was never really a believer, but boy now, let me tell you, there’s no doubt about it. There’s a lot of things out here,” Gary confessed.
It turns on Monteleone’s is known for being a hot spot for folks from the beyond, perhaps hungry for one last meal or meddling with someone else’s.
“To experience for yourself, it’s incredible,” he said.
It all started when Gary expanded his restaurant to the building next door.
“We tore those walls down and then that’s when we found the documents from the spiritualist church that was here at one time,” he explained. “They do healings as well as doing seances. Or if you had a loved one you were trying to contact, that’s what they would do.”
Turns out some of those loved ones might have been left behind.
“We had both side blessed…Right off the bat… We felt comfortable with it. But… once we started doing construction… all this stuff started happening. Then it was a different feeling at that point,” he said.
One spirit in particular seemed to cause the most trouble for Gary.
“This spirit or ghost, whatever you want to call it, was strong enough to throw that one pound canister all the way through the door and end up in the middle of the dining room,” he continued, “so that’s what started to begin with, and that’s when we knew we had an issue going on.”
“He threw hot water on one of the ladies in the kitchen…. He threw a hot pan of lasagna at me. Luckily I was able to get out of the way. But that just tells you the strength of this guy. It was incredible,” admitted Gary.
Things were so bad, he didn’t even want to bring the priest back to the restaurant.
“We didn’t want to bring the monsignor back here because we didn’t want to… In case he was to get hurt or something,” said Gary. “I didn’t really know what to do. This went on for three years. We were just thinking, ‘Maybe we just need to sell it and get out of here.’ It was horrible.”
One night a woman came to eat at Monteleone’s Ristorante and claimed she too could sense the suffering spirit that was wreaking havoc on Gary, so she offered to her psychic service of serving the lost soul his eviction notice.
“They did a cleansing, and she was able to push him out,” said Gary. “We still have four adults here, and a little girl that came in with the gentleman that was giving us all the trouble.”
The five remaining spirits still like to have fun with customers and when it happens, it is for all to see.
“If people order a beer… and they want her to come to the table, we’ll give them the cap with the beer… You’ll see at first it’ll start to turn the cap, and then you’ll see it click. And if she’s comfortable with you, she’ll stay there the whole night… It’s uncomfortable to some people, but some people really enjoy it,” he said.
Despite having things like this happen, people still come for the food, and some for the chance of a spooky experience.
“I’ve come here with my daughter before, and we’ve had an experience where the glass slid across the table. And it was mind blowing to me, and it was mind blowing to her because she’s like, ‘The glass is wet.’ And I’m like, ‘There’s no water,'” recounted Armando.
Everything from our batteries to our microphones had issues, but in the end all we left with was full bellies, great stories, and a few goosebumps, making Monteleone’s a marvelous stop for hunger and hauntings on The Texas Bucket List.
“Even if you don’t see anything scary, the atmosphere is awesome… the food is great, and the people here are always so nice,” said Armando. “If you love creepy stuff and good food, this is the place you want to come to in El Paso. Hands down, no lie.”