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@Work: Villa Morales

Jan 27, 2005 – When Angela Morales took over the family restaurant, she planned to run it for five years. That was 30 years ago, and she is still there.
She does dream of retirement. She says she's heard of women moving from one restaurant to another working as waitresses while they see the world, and that doesn't sound like a bad idea to her.
However, as she spoke recently sitting on the patio of the Villa Morales, the restaurant that has been in her family for over 50 years, that retirement did not appear to be on the immediate horizon.
She talked about how much the restaurant, which specializes in local and Spanish cuisine, has shifted its focus to catering in recent years. The restaurant used to be open five days a week, but now it is open only Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Villa Morales caters for various government and business groups and for family functions. They will deliver to the function or present the meal right at the restaurant in Estate Whim, just east of Frederiksted off Route 70. According to her partner J.T. Torres, the restaurant has many dedicated customers who keep coming back. "They know they will be treated like family here and they like that," he said.
The 55-year-old Angela cannot be blamed for occasionally thinking of retirement. Her earliest memories are of working in the restaurant her father Angel Sr. and mother Josifena started 53 years ago. "As soon as we were big enough, they put us on a stool and we could wipe dishes," she said.
Her two brothers Alfredo, who is the clerk at Territorial Court, and Angel Jr, who is a professor at the University of Virgin Islands, St. Thomas campus, still help out on occasion, but are no longer involved in the day-to-day operation of the business.
Her parents started the restaurant in downtown Frederiksted and then started to build in the present location after about seven years. For a while both locations were open. Angela remembers taking turns with her brothers to work at the Frederiksted restaurant early in the morning before catching the bus to school.
The family celebrated 50 years in business with an anniversary party in June of 2002. Prices were the same as they were when the restaurant first opened. J.T. said, "There were 2,000 people trying to get that 60 cent plate."
The family tries to keep a strong place in the community. Angela said they received help from community members as they struggled to stay open after Hurricane Hugo.
They also give back to the community. For several years, the group My Brother's Table, which helps feed the homeless in Frederiksted, had no real home. Villa Morales opened its doors and the meals were prepared there and then taken down to Market Square to be served.
The restaurant also sponsors several kayaks in the Kayaks for Kids annual event that raises funds for orphans.
All the seasoning and sauces are made right on the premises using whatever local fruits and vegetables are available. Josefina still makes a hot pepper sauce.
Pates and johnny cakes are their biggest sellers. They often get calls to overnight those delights to Florida, Maine, New York, Florida and other states.
Specials on Thursday include stew goat and barbecue spare ribs; on Friday, Roast pork and roast goat; and Saturday, roast pork and roast goat.
The regular menu includes seafood such as steamed red snapper, conch, shrimp, and lobster. Steaks are also available, but J.T. is adamant about not having any hot dogs, pizza or hamburgers.
A small motel with eight rooms available for short-term rentals connects to the restaurant which has a patio, a dining area, a bar and a conference room.
For more information call 772-0556.

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