ABOVE: Super spicy shrimp tacos at Casa Villa
CASA VILLA: 182 WEST MAIN ST, STAMFORD
Being the junior member of what is now essentially a two-person department, I work Christmas almost every year. There is no real way to sugarcoat this; it pretty much sucks.
My family is 2,900 miles away in the San Francisco Bay Area and despite spending Christmas Eve at a friend’s house for an entirely enjoyable holiday meal, it’s a little depressing to find yourself cruising Stamford for a restaurant or grocery store that might actually be open on Christmas night.
Having failed to anticipate this problem and forgetting to shop for groceries the day before, my options were meager. Macaroni and cheese, cold cereal and other less-than-appealing options awaited me at home as I wandered the city searching for something open, warm and ideally, delicious.
But just when I thought all was lost, the light from a familiar storefront on West Main St. shone through the darkness. Like the Christmas Star leading the three wise men to that manger in Bethlehem, the neon ‘open’ sign in the window of Casa Villa beckoned. These eyes have not seen a more welcome sight and at this moment – I don’t know if it was the Spirit of Christmas or just my insatiable appetite for authentic Mexican food – I was flush with excitement for tonight, my friends, I would dine on tacos.
Behind the counter owner Alvino Villa worked frantically alongside an all-hands compliment of employees (including Alejandro, the star short-order cook). Casa Villa was busy churning out dishes even as – or perhaps because – the rest of Stamford was closed for business.
Sitting near the warm glow of the rotisserie oven, looking out onto the cold street with a flimsy paper plate of shrimp tacos in front of me, I realized that on a night like tonight, Casa Villa is more than my favorite neighborhood restaurant, it is a savior.
Mr. Villa, for rescuing my Christmas, I thank you. It truly was a Christmas miracle.
POST SCRIPT: I fly to SFO at 7 a.m. tomorrow and will still have plenty of time for family holiday time. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.