The Lunch Break Chronicles

with Chris Preovolos

AN LBC ANNIVERSARY AND AN ODE TO TACOS

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A NOTE FROM THE LBC: I have been part-time blogging here at the Advocate for a year now, so I thought I’d repost this entry, which inspired The Lunch Break Chronicles.

9/12/2008

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. And to be honest, I’m not sure what they serve besides tacos as I rarely look at the menu — I recently noted my customary order of tres tacos al pastor con arroz y frijoles (and a grapefruit-flavored Jarritos) is anticipated by the staff when I walk in the door.

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. They were 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?

–CP

Categories: General
Chris Preovolos

6 Responses

  1. Park is tough, except not really. Its only tough if you insist on parking directly in front of Casa Villa, as I often insist on.

    But really, there is always tons of parking in front of the Mill River Playground.

  2. JR says:

    I love Casa Villa – the only downside is that parking is tough around there, and it’s not close enough to home for me to walk!

  3. Amanda says:

    Now if we could only get a Casa Villa annex in downtown, I could eat there for lunch more often!

  4. You predate my taco experience in Stamford – Ive only lived here six years – but I still think Casavilla is the best. I like the taco truck Ok but the al pastor is not as good. I will try the other dishes next time.

    And yeah, it’s not “true” al pator. But what are you gonna do?

  5. adamclyde says:

    Casa Villa is pretty good. I’ve been going there about 8 years – since before it was called Casa Villa (originally called Favi’s). For a brief time, Casa Villa was overshadowed by the now defunct Roberto’s (in the spot now occupied by Omar’s Peruvian Restaurant just a few steps up the road, which happens to have awesome lomo saltado, btw). Roberto’s was legendary… had the best tacos in Stamford – and the best carnitas anywhere around (including los gemelos in port chester). Sadly it closed 4 years ago.

    But all is not lost – because the best tacos in Stamford are from the El Charrito taco truck, parked daily across from Sach’s plumbing. Good carnitas, good al pastor, good cecina, good bistek, etc., etc. Even better than their tacos are their huaraches and sopes…

    Sadly though, neither casa villa nor el charrito actually make real tacos al pastor, which is roasted on a spit (my favorite version coming from “Surf Taco” a street-side stall near the famous K-38 surf spot in Baja). But if you want spit roasted al pastor, you can find some really good ones in Queens. Most notably at Taqueria Coatzingo on Roosevelt Ave.