Taco enthusiasts and Italian food lovers can rejoice with a pair of restaurants new to the Tyler area.

The Taco Spot and Bella Italian Cafe are locally owned and family-run restaurants, which both began operating in May in the Gresham Village Shopping Center. Jaymis and Kimberly Werner opened the The Taco Spot after encouragement from their family.

“My husband and I have been voted by our family to host all major events because they love our tacos,” Kimberly Werner said.

Their tacos are more traditional and made with a soft flour or corn tortilla and filled with chicken or beef along with onions, cilantro, queso fresco and avocado. They also use a secret marinade in their recipe, which calls for some things people might not expect, Kimberly Werner said.

With not many taco restaurants in that area, they decided to take a “leap of faith” and open their own, she said.

“And we saw this location, and we were like: ‘We’re going to do it. We’re going to open it and see if everybody else likes our tacos,’” she said. “And so far, they have.”

The Taco Spot had its grand opening with a ribbon cutting at lunchtime Thursday. In addition to tacos, they also serve quesadillas and tortas.

Food can be ordered either at a drive-thru or walk-up window with seating available for those who want to eat there. Having a drive-thru was always part of the plan, Kimberly Werner said. As a mom of three boys, she said she understands the need to often get food fast.

“Normally, you want something quick,” she said. “You want something where you can just drive up, get something good, take it home and be able to relax and watch a little bit of TV.”

First-time Taco Spot visitor Nadia Allmon stopped by looking for a place to eat on her 30-minute lunch break when she saw the sign for tacos.

“And I was like, ‘Tacos? What? There’s a taco stand?’ and so I quickly put on the brakes and turned around,” Allmon said.

Allmon ordered the No. 1, which has four tacos for $7 — a price she said she considered to be a good deal.

Across the parking lot, Bella Italian Cafe began operating close to the same time as The Taco Spot. The restaurant was opened by chef Benny Shala, who came to the United States 20 years ago from Palermo, Sicily, according to his son, Limi Shala. Limi said his father came to New York to learn as a chef.

After having worked as a chef for other people for years, Benny Shala ended up in East Texas and eventually opened Bella Italian Cafe, which marks his first time to own his own restaurant, Limi Shala said.

Limi Shala works as a server and manager at the family-run establishment.

“It’s me, my mom, my dad (and) my little brother,” he said. “He helps out a little bit, too.”

Benny Shala also designed the menu, which includes 86 dishes that are all made from scratch, Limi Shala said.

The two restaurants are located in the shopping center at 16700 Farm-to-Market Road 2493, which is south of Toll 49 in Tyler.

The Taco Spot is open from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and closed on Sundays.

Bella Italian Cafe is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and closed on Monday.

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