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.”