Santa Maria Sun / Eats
The owner of Thai Talay in Pismo Beach opens new restaurant, Thai Villa, in Nipomo
BY WENDY THIES SELL
When Chef Pranita ‘Jay’ Onyeneke and her cousin Chris Vongsaroj walked into Antonio’s Ristorante in Nipomo last fall, they had something other than lunch on their minds.
“I came through the door, ordered a couple appetizers, and straight-up asked him,” Vongsaroj said, recalling his offer to buy a restaurant that was not for sale. The owner surprised them by almost immediately agreeing to the spontaneous business proposal.
The two cousins were soon renovating—painting a peaceful shade of green on the ceiling, and moving in golden Thai angel statues, Buddha sculptures, and plants.
Within a week of getting the keys they were open for business, calling their new restaurant Thai Villa.
Onyeneke created the menu, bringing many of the most popular dishes from her Thai restaurant in Pismo Beach, Thai Talay.
She also created new menu items unique to Thai Villa.
“Jay is the brains of this restaurant; the recipes here are Jay’s,” Vongsaroj said.
Onyeneke, who was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, worked in the kitchen at a five-star Bangkok hotel and trained as a chef in Australia. She moved to the United States in 2003 to open her own restaurant and share her homeland’s cuisine.
“She has a passion for making food. She’s really dedicated,” Vongsaroj added. “She has a love for making food.”
Vongsaroj grew up in his parents’ successful Thai restaurants in Orange County. “My parents got me hooked on this,” he said about his first venture in restaurant ownership. “‘This is what you do. This is what you must do.’”
Both are enthusiastic about bringing the Thai-style food that they love to their neighbors in and around Nipomo.
They’re also taking the time to educate the wait staff on not only good customer service, but also how the food is created in the kitchen, so they are familiar with the unique Thai flavors. All of the dishes are made to order with no MSG.
Thai Villa’s most popular menu items include barbeque beef short ribs, spring rolls, calamari appetizer, Pad Thai noodles, fresh vegetable stir-fry, Tom Yum soup, and a new entrée—Peanut Curry Lamb, a beautifully arranged, generous portion of tender lamb shanks in a delicious peanut curry paste with carrots, potatoes, onions, and peanuts.
The Gang Garee (yellow curry) dish is also really good, served with your choice of meat or seafood and rice.
Thai Villa’s menu includes all the traditional Thai food that you would expect, and they will make a dish for you if it’s not on the menu.
The restaurant, located at 626 W. Tefft St., is open every day for lunch and dinner, except Sunday when only dinner is served.
Contact Sun wine and food writer Wendy Thies Sell at email@example.com.