We settle into the cozy, new Woburn tapas bar and ask the server how the octopus in pulpo a la Gallega ($12) is prepared. “The chef says he treats it with love,” says the waiter. Later, when the chef stops by, he explains that the octopus is caught in the cold Atlantic waters off Galicia, in northwest Spain. “The secret is to dip it whole in hot water four times,” he says. “Then simmer it very slowly for 55 minutes.” Each tender morsel of this tapa is drizzled with fruity olive oil and dusted with paprika and feathery flakes of sea salt. We are in expert hands.
Pintxo Pincho Tapas Bar, opened just over a month ago in the space occupied by the former Woburn Caffe Restaurant and Pizzeria, is owned by Joaquin Galan and Pepe Pineiro. The two friends, who met when they worked at Cafe Sol Azteca in Newton, talked for years about owning their own place. The 50-seat spot — with an adaptation of Picasso’s “Guernica” painted on a wall by sous chef Rafael Camano — is the realization of their dream.
Galan is the chef; it was he who came to our table and explained how he cooks octopus. At Pintxo Pincho, he’s making family recipes (his parents owned three restaurants in Malaga in southern Spain). Pineiro, who grew up in Argentina and lived in Galicia, runs the dining room. His wife, Gigi Leiva, manages the bar.
“Pintxo” and “pincho” have the same meaning — a little bite, often skewered with a toothpick. Pintxo is the spelling used in northern Spain’s Basque country, where this traditional style of snack is popular fare. “Pincho” is the spelling used in the rest of the country.
A pincho comes with each glass of beer or wine you order. Every night there are five or more pinchos on offer. Four local craft beers are on tap. The all-Spanish wine list offers sangria and more than 20 thoughtfully curated selections (most by the glass as well as the bottle). One night with a glass of dry fino sherry ($5) and a round, aromatic white ($11) made from the godello grape, we choose a moist, slender wedge of potato-egg tortilla and a dollop of creamy potato salad. On another visit, we opt for mussels ceviche and a plate of boquerones (marinated white anchovy fillets). Without drinks, pinchos are $3 each; the list changes daily.
Tapas come on small plates and are more substantial, meant for sharing. Conejo al ajopuerro ($9) features bone-in pieces of rabbit served in a garlicky green salsa, addictively delicious for dipping bread. Conejo en salsa de almendra ($9) enrobes dainty rabbit in a delectably silky, saffron-infused sauce made with ground almonds. Gambas ajillo, garlic shrimp ($8) and gambas al pil pil, spicy shrimp ($8) are similarly prepared in sizzling oil. The garlic version offers more vivid flavor than the one described as spicy.
Try the house-made cured meats, like chorizo con manchego ($8), which features thick rounds of the fatty sausage served with wedges of nutty cheese. Pair it with a glass of slightly sweet amontillado sherry ($5). Morcilla, a blood sausage spiced with cumin, comes on toast as a pincho, called morcipan, ($3) or as crispy croquettes ($6) served with a zippy tomato-y dip.
Vegetarian selections are few and there are no leafy greens. One veg-centric dish is croquetas de verduras, or vegetable croquettes ($5), falafel-like fritters made of potato, kale, and leek.
We almost skip dessert, but our server recommends natillas de almendras ($3). We are enjoying the last spoonfuls of this light, lovely almond custard when we realize the secret here. This, like all the other food, is treated with love.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.