A Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian influence fuses together in Niles
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Cava Tapas & Wine Bar
1201 Youngstown-Warren Road, Niles
Open daily, hours vary
Spanish/Portuguese inspired menu
Watch our interview with Cava owner Rose Lamota on vindy.com/valleyfood
By Corey Crisan
In Partnership with 21 WFMJ-TV
NILES – The Mahoning Valley features a distinct culinary scene, loaded with cuisine of all styles from around the world. It’s no secret the Italian restaurants and style tend to rule the Youngstown kingdom, but enter Cava Tapas – a Spanish and Portuguese-style restaurant that is headlined by family recipes and a feel to a classed-up wine bar.
“There’s no Spanish/Portuguese restaurant around here,” Cava owner Rose Lamota said. “You’ll find them around Pittsburgh and Cleveland, so we wanted to open something different in this area. We have great Italian and Mexican restaurants, so my husband decided to do something Spanish and Portuguese.”
Rose’s husband, Antonio, is the head chef at Cava. His family is originally from Spain, and the menu largely consists of his mother’s recipes. Rose was born in the United States, but she was raised in Italy. The couple met when Antonio was at school at Youngstown State University, while Rose was working as a flight attendant. While visiting her brother nearby, fate brought Rose and Antonio together.
“There are similarities [between food cultures],” Rose said. “A lot of the spices are similar. We don’t use butter. We use extra virgin olive oil, and we get that from Spain. If we do bruschetta or caprese, it’s similar. The mix, coming in together, it’s all very similar.”
Rather than a menu of traditional fried or sparse ends on a plate to call an ‘appetizer,’ Cava diverts to ‘tapas,’ which are essentially shrunken-down entrees, but still meant for two or more. A popular tapa at Cava is the char-grilled octopus.
“We like to do the tapas because they’re shareable appetizers,” Rose said. “They’re a little bigger than an appetizer. They’re very shareable to the table. Everybody can try it if there’s a party of four.”
Aside from the deep list of wine and Antonio’s homemade specialties, a popular treat at Cava is their Spanish coffee. Each order is made table side by the Cava wait staff. The server caramelizes rum and cinnamon sugar inside the glass with fire, which projects a visible flame to the surroundings. The waiter then adds a blend of liquor, combines coffee with it, then tops it off with a homemade whipped cream.
“They do the show with the fire, and it’s real popular,” Rose said. “Once it’s done one time … the dining room is all open. One table gets it, and everyone else wants to have it.”
In addition to a selection of domestic imported red and white wines by the bottle or glass, the menu, as mentioned, features house recipes from generations past.
One of chef Antonio’s specialties – and one of the hottest sellers at Cava, is paella. This dish can be shared or kept for one’s self, and it can be customized to taste. Plenty of seafood options can be put into a paella: lobster, shrimp, mussels, scallops to start. It is served on a bed of homemade saffron rice.
Cava Tapas & Wine bar is open daily at 4 p.m. and on Sunday at noon. For the full wine list and the menu of tapas, visit cavatapaswinebar.com.