One of the things that makes following Villarreal CF very special is the connection between the team and the town of Vila-real, which is really quite a small place. Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of Villarreal’s first promotion to the Second Division (a 2-1 victory over Salamanca), but there is sad news from Vila-real today: one of the town’s best-known and best-loved residents, “Pepe” Cabanes, has died.
If you have been to Vila-real, you have probably eaten at his restaurant “Cal Dimoni”, very close to the train station, famous for paella (it has won all sorts of awards, including a ‘Culler de Fusta’ top award from Wikipaella, and Pepe himself received one of three ‘special awards’ from this organization).
When my wife Alisa and I visited Vila-real, we had a paella lunch there and it was indeed excellent—everything we hoped it would be. I was delighted to see that my father’s rule for finding a good place to eat applied, too—he always said “go to the restaurant where the local Rotary club meets, because it will have good food and be run by people who are active in the community” and Cal Dimoni is indeed where the local Rotarians gather!
Pepe was a mainstay of the culinary and cultural organization in Vila-real, which promotes many popular ventures including a tapas route, workshops on how to cook paella over a wood fire, and various gastronomic days. But he was also well known as a big supporter of Villarreal CF; many fans’ groups (penyas) have had their meetings and dinners at Cal Dimoni, and he was a well-known figure to many players, coaches, and front office staff, not to mention Villarreal supporters. Pepe inherited “The Demon” nickname from his grandfather, his original restaurant (more in the center of town, behind the Town Hall) was always referred to by that name, so when the restaurant moved, the name moved with it.
Cal Dimoni will continue, of course; Pepe’s son has cooked paellas in the kitchen for many years, and his daughter greets you when you arrive and works the front of the restaurant. But José (Pepe) Cabanes, El Dimoni, has moved on. Villarreal USA joins those in Vila-real and environs in bidding farewell to a great citizen of the town. RIP, Pepe El Dimoni.