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Restaurateur who moved Mexican food to masses dies

Larry J. Cano, the founder of the El Torito restaurant chain who helped popularize guacamole, fajitas and margaritas with the U.S. masses, has died at age 90.

His former longtime assistant Lee Healy confirmed Cano's death to The Associated Press on Monday. He died of pancreatic cancer Wednesday at his home in Corona Del Mar, Healy said.

Cano, who served as a fighter pilot during World War II, took over a closed-down Polynesian restaurant in Los Angeles in 1954 and turned it into the first El Torito.

He served a mild version of Mexican food that was friendly to mid-century American tastes at a time when there was a burgeoning hunger for the cuisine. Cano said a more authentic cuisine might have scared off many American diners when he was starting out.

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