Gather with old friends – or make new ones – at La Bodega Tapas.
Since opening in April 2018, the Pismo Beach restaurant has been well received thanks to its Mediterranean-inspired tapas menu, celebration of local ingredients and accomplished service.
Brought to life from a former bank, La Bodega presents an ambiance that’s both cordial and casual.
Patrons can settle into the sleek dining room or grab a seat at the bar. Expansive windows surrounding the ground floor and much of the second provide plenty of natural light to the high-ceiling interior.
A partially open kitchen offers glimpses of the well-tuned culinary team — and, yes, they can often be spotted darting in and out of a vault. The bank fixture was retained to serve as the restaurant’s distinctive walk-in refrigerator.
La Bodega is the first restaurant venture for owners Teresa Cordeiro and John McCartney, but their gracious personalities ensure a convivial experience.
Cordeiro, a nurse practitioner, left a previous career in retail to open the restaurant — but only after she talked McCartney, a former hardware engineer, out of retirement to join her.
In creating La Bodega, Cordeiro sought to suggest the essential European concept of getting together to share food, especially in Spain. She also wanted to evoke memories of her childhood.
“I grew up with a garden, always eating fresh food that my mother prepared,” she recalled. “Every meal was a feast simply because my family was gathering together and sharing our time.”
To head up the kitchen at La Bodega, Cordeiro and McCartney tapped the considerable talents of executive chef Fernando Rodriguez. A native of Uruguay, his experience spans intimate fine dining and corporate cuisine.
Rodriguez relishes using his classical training to elevate quality local ingredients, not overpower them.
“We’re using the seasonality of the Central Coast, taking what’s best from this area and serving it to our community,” Cordeiro said.
Except for a few mainstays such as the signature empanadas and seared scallops, La Bodega’s from-scratch menu changes on the first of the month.
To keep staff well apprised of the dishes, Rodriguez conducts a thorough tasting session with them prior to the new rollout. (The same detailed attention is paid to the wine and beer lists.)
In addition to any of the wood-fired flatbreads, current favorites on the menu include a delicate poblano chili relleno and fork-tender braised short ribs served atop a silky potato mousse.
And don’t miss the Valencia paella. Served in an individual-sized paella pan, it’s hearty enough to share, thanks to the generous amount of shrimp, clams, mussels, cod and Spanish chorizo.
As befitting its name, which means “cellar” (specifically a wine cellar) in Spanish, La Bodega offers about two dozen wines, predominantly local.
The wine list takes full advantage of the Central Coast’s emerging focus on Spanish varietals such as tempranillo and albariño. Many wines are available by the glass, and there are 10 draft beers available as well.
“This is really all about the vision of gathering – sharing food and sharing life,” Cordeiro said.
She described a recent busy evening when parties of two and four sat at the same large table. “By the end of the evening they were talking together and sharing their bottles of wine,” she recalled, “and I thought ‘That’s it. That’s what we want to accomplish!’ ”
La Bodega Tapas
790 Price St., Pismo Beach
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The scene: A convivial, casual spot for gathering with friends old and new; dog-friendly patio seating.
The cuisine: Mediterranean-inspired menu uses fresh local ingredients in dishes that are easy to share or hearty enough to have as a meal in themselves. Predominantly local wine list, draft beer also available.
Expect to spend: $14 to $30 on most items. Flatbreads start at $20.
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at email@example.com.