ready for grand reopening after remodel
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
Sept. 7, 2012: Friends are putting up fencing outside and putting
the finishing touches on the interior.
Now El Tipico owner Dina Villa Nostrant hopes to re-open
Toledo’s oldest Mexican restaurant after months of remodeling.
An interior designer by trade, El Tipico will have her signature
touches on the décor, but it’s still her late mom’s influence
where everything else is concerned.
“It’s been fun, because just seeing the changes in the restaurant,”
she said. “I wish my mom was here. Thank God I still have my
father. But I wish my mother was here to see it all. I would
like to see the smile on her face.”
The restaurant is a blend of jewel and earth tones in its color
scheme, what Dina called “warm and inviting” to her customers,
both new and old.
“I was able to combine both God-given talents: my interior design
and the restaurant I was brought up in since I was two years
old,” she explained. “So it’s both of my passions brought
together. But what really drives us is our clientele. They’ve
been awesome. They talk to us on Facebook, leave messages on the
phone, like ‘Hurry up and open, we’re addicted to the food!’ or
‘I can’t live without my tacos or my salsa or my beef tip
burritos!’ They’re so faithful.”
1444 South Ave., first opened in 1968
as a way to keep her mom Consuelo occupied while her kids were
in school and her husband worked. But it became the family
business over the years—one Dina wants to keep going in her
mom’s memory. Consuelo built the customer base, some of whom
still come after 44 years. Dina wants to build it further.
“They’re fun. They’re fun people. They bring smiles to my face,”
she said. “We had no idea we were going to be shut down this
long. Originally we thought a month or two at the most.”
As many other Latino families have done, Consuelo and Ezekiel Villa
moved to Toledo from San Antonio in the 1960’s, expecting it to
be a temporary stop. Ezekiel was an Air Force recruiter at the
time. There are pictures of Ezekiel in uniform by the front
As Dina tells the story, her father lied to get into the Air Force
at age 14 at the tail end of World War II. That made him the
youngest man to ever enter the Air Force.
“Absolutely he lied. It was either that or he continue working as a
migrant worker in the fields,” she recalled. “He managed to pass
a test, missed only one or two questions with only a
fourth-grade education. He served in Korea.”
Dina’s dad, now 80 years young, is still involved in the South
Toledo restaurant—as greeter, unofficial ‘manager’, and
gentleman maître d’.
“He’s the papa bear, the overseer,” she said with a grin. “He says
he’s here just for his good looks.”
The remodeling work began rather simply, an effort to make the
restaurant’s bathrooms compliant with the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA). But over time, the remodel grew into
something bigger to honor Consuelo’s memory. Booths were added
in the dining room, the parking lot was repaved, privacy fencing
is being installed, and the vegetable garden has been replanted.
An outdoor patio is being added in the fall.
“A lot of personal things happened within our family. Also, there
were holdups with getting permits, things like that,” she
explained. “Originally we were just going to do the inside and
do a little cosmetic facelift.”
But that facelift soon became a full-fledged makeover. As the
project got bigger and bigger, more permits were needed, which
meant more visits to city building inspections.
“Then we redid the kitchen. So really, this whole restaurant is a
brand-new restaurant,” Dina said. “
Dina tore down her parents’ old house next-door to make room for
the parking lot, but did manage to save several “artifacts” that
now adorn the restaurant.
“It was difficult because there are memories,” she said. “You have
Christmas and Thanksgiving, grandchildren who were brought up
there. My son was brought up there, my mom helped to raise him.
That was difficult.”
Her favorite is a chandelier that originally decorated her late
mom’s dining room. It now hangs in the women’s bathroom, giving
it a more elegant look.
“That’s her way of helping me decorate and she’s still here,” Dina
Just like everything else, the outdoor patio, when installed this
fall, will be a labor of loving memory.
“It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, because it’s connected
to one of my mom’s gardens,” explained Dina. “That’s the reason
I look forward to it. First, it gives people a chance to sit out
there and feel the cool breeze. My mother always planted herbs,
fruit trees and vegetables. She always planted things that would
give back. I want out customers to be able sit out there and
relax, enjoy the food, and afterwards pick some fruit, need some
green peppers or tomatoes—they’re welcome to take some.”
Dina explained that her mom always “had four separate gardens going
in four separate locations” when she ran the South Toledo
“I don’t quite have that energy that she had,” joked Dina. “We’ll
just have the one—but it will be filled with tomatoes and
peppers and garlic, cilantro and all kinds of herbs.”
El Tipico has passed the requisite inspections and will
officially reopen with a ribbon-cutting on Sept. 20.
20 percent of the proceeds from the opening weekend will go to
the Cedar Creek Car Clinic, a fund to help single moms and
and low-income families within its congregation to avoid costly
auto repairs while living paycheck-to-paycheck or in poverty.
The restaurant also will host a pair of soft openings. The first
is an invitation-only event for employees, their families,
supporters, and regular patrons on Sept. 18 from 5 to 9 p.m. The
following day, El Tipico will host a fundraiser for the
Spanish-American Organization scholarship fund, Wednesday, Sept.
19, also from 5 to 9 p.m. Both events will allow the
restaurant's staff to perform a "dry run" so that El Tipico's
well-known customer service enhances the dining experience as
much as the fresh atmosphere and new menu.
“There are certain clientele who already know they’re on the list
(for a soft opening),” she said with a laugh. “It depends on how
big the bribe is. I’m accepting gifts. We’ve had people ask and
say ‘Please make sure I’m on that list.’ That allows us to get
all the kinks out, make sure we’re running everything in the
Dina has her entire original staff intact, despite several months
closed for the renovations. She also plans to hire a few more to
handle what she expects to be an influx of new customers. Her
total employment will number up to a dozen.
“We’ve kept them employed for a few months, but these last two
months they were not employed,” she said. “They’ve hung in there
and they’re waiting because they want to come back. Our original
plan was to keep them employed so a lot of the work we did
together with our employees. They’re like family. They are
While some of the restaurant makeover shows on TV only take two
days to transform the menu and interior of an eatery, Dina has
not had that quick turnaround. But she promises the wait will be
“I like to joke that it’s the newest, oldest Mexican restaurant in
Toledo,” Dina said. “It’s kind of got a Mexican bistro feel to
me. I know that’s French, but that’s how it feels to me. This
has always been our home. I definitely appreciate anyone coming
here, because it’s a destination place. We’re not located by
Franklin Park or Levis Commons. The people who come here come
because they appreciate our food and I want them to feel like
they’re part of our family.”