La Villa Mexican and Salvadoran Food, located on 261 Irvington Ave., is a new Mexican-Salvadoran restaurant offering “authentic and fresh” cuisine with a 10% discount for students.
Owners Mario and Kate Murgas opened the restaurant less than a month ago fulfilling a lifelong dream of theirs.
The business is owned and run by the couple, but they hope to hire Seton Hall students for parttime jobs in the future. Mario said that Kate does most of the cooking in the restaurant.
“She’s the one who has all the secrets for the flavors,” he said.
La Villa is decorated with white walls and dark wood furniture along photos of Mexico and El Salvador. Latin music also plays throughout the restaurant. The couple wanted to have something clean but still representative of the countries.
Their Salvadoran food options come from family recipes, while the Mexican recipes come from a chef Kate previously worked with.
“We try to keep the traditional cooking methods,” Kate said. “The way the grandmothers do it over there. That’s why we make everything fresh.”
Mario and Kate said they make an emphasis on keeping the same cooking methods and recipes to ensure a fresh taste.
“There are different ways to make rice, but if one little thing is changed, like too much heat or less heat, [that] even changes the flavor,” Mario said.
The owners both have restaurant experience, but this is their first time as restaurant owners. They have wanted to open a restaurant for 12 years, but held off on their dream so they could raise their son.
“That’s something she wanted for a long time, and this came just at the right time,” Mario said.
Most Latin restaurants in the village open around lunch time.
“We want to bring something for breakfast. We had been looking for breakfast burritos for a long time here, and nobody had it,” Kate said.
The Murgas also enjoyed how the location is close to Seton Hall and off-campus apartments. Both said that they are not currently doing delivery but plan to in the future. However, they do offer 10% off for Seton Hall students with an ID.
The restaurant also offers an allday breakfast burrito special. “We have the breakfast burrito that comes with potatoes, eggs and cheese inside. Then you choose sausage, bacon and veggies, and we also have the vegetarian version. It’s just $5 if you’re in here, but we have the special for carry-out for $4 or two for $7,” Kate said.
Michelle Torres, a junior mathematical finance major, dined at the restaurant recently.
“The part I enjoyed the most was the guacamole they served because you could tell it was freshly made,” Torres said. “I loved adding it onto everything like their tacos and quesadillas.”
She added, “There are a variety of options to order from, so I also had the chance to taste their empanadas which had a very rich flavor to them.”
“Food is sacred,” Mario said. “The most that we can offer is obviously great-tasting food, but also feeling welcomed and enjoying your stay here while you are eating.”
“If you come here 5 to 10 minutes before 8 p.m., you deserve to experience your food like if you came at 12 p.m. without us rushing you to get out or making you feel uncomfortable,” he said.
Kate hopes to give people the same quality of food and a clean restaurant every time. La Villa is also vegetarian- and vegan-friendly along with serving fresh drinks like horchata, which is a popular Mexican drink.
“Also, we want to bring Salvadoran food because it is our food,” Kate said.
Kate said that everything in restaurants is frozen these days, and they try to make everything fresh.
“I definitely recommend La Villa to students because aside from receiving quality food that’s authentically made, the ambiance is very welcoming,” Torres said. “Being there reminded me of the home-cooked meals my grandma makes. Since it’s a short distance from the university, short enough to walk during good weather, it’s easy for students to go and enjoy.”
Bianca Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.