Chris Preovolos/The Advocate
CASA VILLA: 182 WEST MAIN ST, STAMFORD
As a fifth-generation Californian, I come from a magical land of street-corner tamale vendors, homemade tortillas and the ubiquitous urban oasis: the taco truck.
While not exactly mobile, this brings me to Casa Villa, a Mexican eatery on Stamford’s West Side. To be honest, I’m not sure what they serve besides tacos as I rarely look at the menu.
Indeed, I recently noted that my customary order of tres tacos al pastor con arroz y frijoles (and a grapefruit-flavored Jarritos) is anticipated by the staff upon my entry.
In the months it was closed after a fatal car accident resulted in the destruction of the restaurant’s small seating area (no diners were injured), I was adrift in a taco-less world few could enjoy. I tried the lone taco truck, the chain restaurants and the more yuppified options. It was not the same.
I found solace on trips to California where I sampled some very fine tacos. Tacos de camarones in Napa. Tacos de pescado in San Diego. Tacos de carne asada in Vallejo, my hometown. But what I really needed was a little piece of home right here in Stamford.
In Casa Villa, the steady, accordion-laced ranchera soundtrack, the reassuring presence of the mustachioed revolutionary Emiliano Zapata gazing down from the orange-colored walls, the sizzle of the grill…it all does wonders for my sanity.
The tacos al pastor are a house special–and for good reason, owner Alvino Villa hails from Puebla, Mexico, where the dish originated. The chopped pork atop a couple of warm corn tortillas is spicy and is finished with pineapple, onions and cilantro. They arrive quickly served with wedges of lime and their own salsa verde.
I’m not here to tell you these are the best tacos al pastor I’ve ever had. So subjective are tacos this would be disingenuous, but all things considered–particularly the appalling lack of decent Mexican food in the area–they should be given a chance.
Tacovangelist that I am, I haven’t been entirely successful in my endeavor to spread the word; a friend of mine–a transplant from San Diego–had patently refused to try Casa Villa on the presumption that Mexican food in Connecticut simply cannot be edible. However, I’m not sure I can entirely trust her judgement knowing that a San Diego invention, the “California Burrito,” is a grotesque abomination that involves stuffing a perfectly good carne asada burrito with French fries.
…but I digress. Did I mention I love tacos?