If the Three Tenors had collaborated on a restaurant instead of “Nessun Dorma,” they might have founded the popular new Tapas in Barbados.
Instead, three Italians well-known in the Barbados restaurant scene collaborated to make beautiful food together.
Located on the new boardwalk on the south coast, Tapas occupies the two-level space Aqua once had. It’s one of the most stunning sea-front locations on the island.
Aqua offered diners an elegant, quite posh space … that remains so for Tapas as well. But Tapas isn’t really pricey. Four of us will order every tapas plate that strikes our fancy (and then hoard our favorites when the waiter brings them) and still have spent less than $100US for the table. Paired with a good bottle of white wine, dinner is a true Barbados bargain. (And believe me, paradise doesn’t come cheap.)
The trio of Italians behind Tapas is comprised of Alfredo Giovine, from the wonderful Mama Mia; Franco Parisi, formerly executive chef at Lone Star; and, from Dolce Gelato, Franco Diamanti, who makes the best gelato in the Caribbean – at least that’s what my finely tuned sweet tooth tells me.
I caught up with Alfredo one night and asked why, without any advertising, Tapas has been doing so well since its mid-August opening. As Norah Jones music mixed with the soft music of the waves in the background, Alfredo told me he thinks that Barbadians and tourists alike were hungry for something new and affordable and that word of mouth keeps the place full ‘most every night.
I’m pretty sure Franco and Franco and Alfredo were all born with the restaurant gene. The food is effortlessly good, rare for a restaurant that just opened. The place also feels good; if you’re a local it’s a place “where everyone knows your name” and if you’re a guest to our island, you’re quickly made to feel at home.
In his heavy Italian accent, Alfredo told me, “The restaurant is my home. I feel like people come to my home. At 17, I work receiving tourists at the port (in his home town in southern Italy). I end up taking everyone home for a meal with my mother and father.”
If you’re at Tapas for tapas, you will start your evening eating tapas and finish eating tapas, not stopping until you’re full.
But you can also order off the full dinner menu for a more traditional dining experience. Starters run from a light and satisfying Beef Carpaccio on rocket salad ($11.50US) to the adventuresome Pan-Fried Goat Cheese in a Panko Crust (with pumpkin, delish!) ($11US) to a hearty Parmigiana (layers of baked eggplant, tomato, and Parmesan cheese) ($9.50US).
I’ve not had the New Zealand Rack of Lamp (with warm pepper and olive salad and spicy potato wedges) but friends who have rave about it ($28US). I have had the Fish of the Day – local fish such as king fish, flying fish, snapper, mahi mahi (which we call dolphin here) – pulled out of the sea just a couple of hours before being blackened or grilled, as you wish, and paired with mango salsa. Now is that a tropical-paradise meal to remember?
I don’t know about you, but it’s enough to make me break out in song.
Tapas: Hastings Main Road, Highway 7. Telephone: 246-228-0704. Call well ahead to reserve a seaside table. Otherwise, walk-ins are more than welcome. All major credit cards accepted.