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Finding Spain in Santa Monica

Executive Chef David slicing jamon

Ever since my visit to Barcelona, Spain in the summer of 2000, courtesy of the Grand Princess, I have had a love affair with tapas…probably because they are small, delicious and varied in flavor and design.  Tapas means “to cover” in Spanish, and tapas-type food was created out of necessity…originally Spaniards placed a piece of bread over their glass of sherry to keep fruit flies out. Later, bartenders then began topping the bread with meats, olives and other wine-friendly snacks (is there a snack that is NOT wine friendly, I ask?)

The types of tapas I discovered in Barcelona were scrumptious, small bites, affordable and consisted of a variety of items displayed together, enhanced with bold and spicy flavors such as garlic, paprika, cumin and saffron.

Los Angeles is definitely sprinkled with fun tapas bars, some more pricey than others.  But the one I discovered recently in Santa Monica really stood out.  Bar Pintxo (pronounced peench-oh) is located at 109 Santa Monica Blvd. (between The Promenade and Ocean Blvd) and was opened by Joe Miller of Joe’s Restaurant fame in Venice.

I learned that “pincho” is the Spanish word for thorn or spike, and it’s spelled “pintxo” in the Basque language.  Therefore, it makes sense then that a pintxo is actually tapas served on bread or with skewers/toothpicks to hold the stacked ingredients together.

We bellied up to the bar and sampled a lovely red and white wine, as well as a nice assortment of pintxos.  The food was delicious, fresh, flavorful and fun to eat.  But the best part was having Executive Chef David behind the bar chatting with us as if we were old friends…as we watched him make his Tortilla Espanola on a lively and hot stovetop.  Let me not forget the sweet treat that ended our meal:  churros con chocolate…mini churros dipped in warm chocolate sauce!

The decor is authentic, warm and colorful.  I literally felt like I was sitting in a bar off La Rambla in Barcelona!  I can’t wait to go back to Bar Pintxo and try a few other things off the very reasonably priced menu…and of course chat with the chef.