Cuisine with a cultural connection
Guests enter through the glass door only to be whisked away to another country. The walls, painted a deep, red hue, are adorned with paintings and Spanish memorabilia. Noses wander along with the delectable aroma in the air from foreign dishes some may find unfamiliar.
However, the customers come for more than just the mouth-watering tapas or the wide selection of wines at Tasca del Tinto — they come for the experience.
Residents of Bellingham are always scoping out restaurants for something new, so when Miguel Losada wanted to add a Spanish restaurant to the mix, Tasca del Tinto was born. Nestled in the center of downtown Bellingham, it’s the city’s first and only Spanish restaurant.
After moving to Spain from Texas at age 3, Losada grew up among his family and became embedded in the local culture. He then joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Oak Harbor, Washington. This is when he adopted a newfound love for Bellingham’s people and their hospitality.
“I’ve been able to bring something different to people. I use that word because there’s a variety of options in this town,” Losada said. “There’s Italian, Mexican, Greek, Indian and even Ethiopian food. So I thought, ‘Why not Spanish food?’”
Tasca del Tinto has been open for about six months. So far, customer responses and business have been favorable, Losada said.
“I’ve never had this experience of a shop owner also being the chef and also being the server and actually really connecting with the people.”
Senior Paolo Bicchieri stumbled upon Tasca del Tinto as a customer after his dinner plans at Boundary Bay didn’t work out. As soon as he walked in, Bicchieri said his expectations were exceeded.
“I had just gone to Spain this summer, and what was cool was that I didn’t have any expectations of this place. It really felt like the places in Spain that I had gone and had food and wine,” Bicchieri said. “I’ve never had this experience of a shop owner also being the chef and also being the server and actually really connecting with the people”
Once Bicchieri soaked up the atmosphere of Tasca del Tinto, he decided to join Losada on his mission to interlace the restaurant with Bellingham.
“[Losada’s] hope is to be Bellingham’s tapas bar. That, to me, means being able to really connect with the communities in town, like the student community, but also the downtown scene and the people who don’t really know what he has to offer,” Bicchieri said.
According to Bicchieri, on occasional nights, Losada will rent out the entire restaurant for an event called Paella and Flamenco Night. Bicchieri said the evening always includes spanish dancers, musicians and paellas, an obligatory Spanish food.
“People get this huge night of looking into what Spanish culture is like. It’s still about the food and wine, but his interest goes beyond that into music and dance,” Bicchieri said.
The main attraction of Tasca del Tinto is its food, which is always aesthetically garnished, exotic and flavorful. Its menu rotates items every four-to-six weeks to keep both the customers and chefs intrigued.
Benjamin Ayers, an assistant chef, had to do a bit of researching before becoming Losada’s right-hand man.
“I’ve never even considered this type of cuisine before,” Ayers said. “I’ve been learning a lot.”
Tasca del Tinto offers an assortment of dishes, from paellas to jamón, all imported from Spain and recreated in the kitchen. Ayers and Losada personally enjoy the jamón, which is a dry-cured ham. According to Losada, the jamón is a very special and unique item in Spanish cuisine.
Similar to his food, Losada’s inspirations for cooking are full of character and culture. He accrued his culinary flair from life and schooling, which he shares with his customers through an intimate dining experience.
“People are fans. They come for a good ham or a paella. But people are like, ‘You know what? I’ve never had that before.’ They really get surprised, and they keep coming back. So far, it’s been a great trip,” Losada said.
Ayers said he finds himself informing guests and peers about the difference between Spanish and Mexican cuisine.
“I constantly have that argument that [the food is] not Mexican. That’s part of it; it’s not just food, it’s educating people to a new and different cuisine,” Ayers said.
Ayers witnesses Losada interacting with guests, often educating them about where the food comes from and how it’s made.
Nonetheless, the presentation and mixture of flavors is what brings people back, Ayers said.
“The most amazing feature of this place is the people,” Losada said. “Very open-minded people who are always eager to try new things and new flavors, tastes and experiences.”
Losada holds high aspirations for his career in restaurant management. He hopes to build customer loyalty and essentially create a haven for Bellingham residents to come in for a quick tapa, small chat and a glass of wine on all occasions.