Tapas Spanish Cafe bridges the gap between old and new
Chef/Co-Owner Antonio Santiago and his wife Johanna took over Tapas Spanish Café last year, catering to many of the law enforcement and state employees that work in the area. The first thing everyone thinks of when they hear the word “tapas” is the small plates that go great with a couple glasses of sangria. In this case, “tapas” means the lid of a pot or pan. Husband and wife switched some things up and is slowly gaining a more loyal following.
I met up with them recently to talk about Tapas Spanish Café and what kinds of changes they’ve gone through over the course of their first year as business owners:
“Antonio Santiago really knows a thing or two about Tampa’s food scene. He’s worked at restaurants including Piquant, Cooper’s Hawk, and with Ferrell Alvarez at Rooster & the Till and Nebraska Mini Mart. Santiago says he and Alvarez, along with his former co-workers, built a relationship that’s like a family. He says Alvarez has become a mentor to him.
“We have great communication and he’s a great mentor. I can call him for any help with Tapas,” he says.
The family vibes continued when Santiago and his wife Johanna Petel partnered with former Rooster & the Till co-worker Ben Pomales of Pickford’s Counter for a pop-up event in late September. Pomales and Santiago did two pop-ups at Urban Bungalow (since relocated to the old Pickford Sundries three miles away), so this occasion wasn’t new for them. The pop-up event featured fine dining takeout food. The five-course menu for the night included cioppino calzone, pork belly salad, and a cookies & cream latte.
“With the pandemic going on, we wanted to do something cool. I’m used to doing fine dining and that’s what I like. I hadn’t done it in a while, so it was good to get back to that,” Santiago explains.”