From food trailer to restaurant, mother and daughter open up New Milford Mexican eatery

Alejandra Aguilar Gonzaga of Momma's Tacos in New Milford, Conn.

Alejandra Aguilar Gonzaga of Momma's Tacos in New Milford, Conn.

Contributed Photo / The News-Times

NEW MILFORD — When Alissa Swantek was 9 years old, her mother Alejandra Aguilar Gonzaga purchased a trailer, and in the warm weather months, she drove to local flea markets, fairs and carnivals to sell empanadas.

“We would hang out all day, selling empanadas,” said Swantek, who is now 25. “I would help my mother.”

Gonzaga and Swantek have come a long way since their days in the trailer. The mother-daughter pair just opened Momma’s Tacos on Church Street in town. The business sells authentic Mexican food.

The empanada

Gonzaga, a single mother who was born in Mexico City, came to the United States at the age of 21.

She never cooked when she lived in Mexico.

“When I started making empanadas, I researched cooking methods,” she said, adding her friends also taught her cooking techniques.

Gonzaga chose to sell empanadas out of the trailer because that dish was easiest for her to make while traveling and taking care of her children — she also has a son, Alec — at the same time.

“She could make the empanadas ahead of time and fry them on the spot,” said Swantek, of New Britain. “With other Mexican foods, she would’ve needed much more equipment.”

After operating the business out of the trailer for five years, Gonzaga relocated to a booth in an indoor flea market in Middletown, N.Y., and renamed the business Antojitos Mexicanos, which means Mexican cravings.

She expanded the menu selection to include many more Mexican dishes.

“We were all super nervous because this was a big investment, but it was really successful,” Swantek said.

They were there for 17 years.

Two years ago, the plaza the business was located in was sold, and mother and daughter began hunting for a new location.

They fell in love with the town of New Milford.

“What is intriguing to us is it’s right on the Green. Everyone walks in New Milford. It’s a very cozy, almost like a Hallmark-y town,” said Swantek, who just became a mother to Adalynn Swantek, who is 4 months old.

“A lot of love”

They opened Momma’s Tacos with $5,000 in the bank. It’s in the location that was previously occupied by Tossed on the Green, which has closed.

“We opened it with a lot of IOUs,” Swantek said. “We have since paid everyone back.”

The women already owned kitchen supplies, and the owner of the building helped them out with other issues that arose.

Swantek said her family is still amazed at how much business Mamma’s Tacos has gotten since it opened in November.

“In the prior place, we served 30 to 50 families a day,” Swantek said. “Here, we’re serving 80 to 100 families a day.”

Mother and daughter said they want to introduce New Milford residents to authentic Mexican food.

Nearly every item on the menu, which includes quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas and tacos, is made on the premises, from scratch.

Gonzaga, 53, a Cheshire resident, along with Alec Gonzaga, 21, does all the cooking, while Swantek takes care of the “back end” — making sure all bills and employees get paid, developing the menu, and training employees.

Dishes offered at Momma’s Tacos include huaraches, which is a large tortilla; and nachos.

“I put beans, sauce, jalapenos, and sour creme on them,” Gonzaga said. “It’s a really good combination.”

They also sell Mexican soups, including birria, which is beef cooked in dried chilis and Mexican spices; and pozole, which is made with corn and cooked in pork buns, and served with lettuce, relish, olives and avocado.

Gonzaga said her family puts “a lot of love and effort” into everything they make, and makes sure to never run out of anything listed on the menu.

Swantek said she’s very proud of her mother.

“She set such a good example for me and my brother, that if you have a dream, you can make it happen,” she said. “You just have to work really, really hard, but you can do it.”

Momma’s Tacos, 17 Church St., is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Call 860-717-4577. The diner seats 30 people. There is a children’s menu. The business offers Taco Tuesday, where are four tacos for the price of three. For more information, visit mommas-tacos.com and “mommastacos” on Facebook .