In 1972, Ismael and Guillermina Villaseñor opened Villa Azteca Mexican Restaurant in the Bel Aire Plaza in Napa. While operating Villa Azteca, Ismael opened Villa Corona in 1983, managing both locations until he sold Villa Azteca in 1985. Over the years, their children expanded the business with full locations in St. Helena and Vacaville and full-service catering in the Valley and Bay Area. They also offer drop-offs and setups for special gatherings, with the most popular request being a Taco Bar setup with handmade tortillas. They also provide halibut ceviche, empanadas stuffed with shrimp or chicharrónes (fried pork rinds), cheese, and more.
This year marks 50 years in operation in the Bel Aire Plaza. When Ismael and Guillermina retired to Mexico in 1999, the two youngest Villaseñor siblings, Fernando and Gabriela, took over operations and now own this location. Guests who dine here enjoy an outdoor patio seating area to order menu items focused on classic dishes and recipes Ismael created over the years.
“Simple is more,” said Fernando, whose favorite menu item is Carnitas Tacos with refried beans topped with a flavorful salsa to balance the dish. He said, “I like to eat a light dish that makes me feel good after eating it.” Heartier options with nacho cheese and sour cream are also on the menu and pair well with the new drinks menu option of margaritas on the rocks.
Breakfast at Villa Corona marks a great starting spot to fuel up for a day of strolling through charming shops and perhaps a wine-tasting on Main Street in St. Helena. A plate of Huevos Rancheros is one of several culturally authentic options on the menu, with a side of rice and beans to “Mex” a plate of eggs. For patrons who prefer to skip breakfast and opt for a light lunch, the A La Carta menu skips the rice and beans to focus on singular cravings, whether that’s a taco salad, an enchilada, a flauta (a crispy rolled corn tortilla stuffed with chicken and topped with guacamole and sour cream) or a tamale.
For owner Daniel Villaseñor, the tangy, spicy tomatillo taste of Chicken Green Pozole is his recipe and is only offered at the St. Helena location. “By popular demand, we keep it on the menu year-round,” he said. “On a sunny afternoon, it’s great with a ‘cold one.’”
In 1997, Carlos Villaseñor opened a second location in Vacaville, which also operates as a catering kitchen and restaurant. In 2006, he expanded the business with a restaurant in The Nut Tree shopping plaza in Vacaville.
“One of my favorite go-to dishes is Pollo Verde, which is chicken thigh meat simmered in a spicy tomatillo sauce with a variety of spices, including cumin and thyme,” he said. “We also make it with pork, and for catering, I introduce it with chicharrónes made from the trimmings of pork shoulder.”
Another favorite on the menu is Menudo. This slow-cooked tripe is prepared with beef hooves simmered in a Chile de árbol and guajillo broth with hominy. The Napa and St. Helena locations are where this dish is available— and known to cure a hangover.
In honor of their mother, each location and catering menu serves her homemade flan— a highly recommended dessert.