TANNINS Restaurant & Wine Bar
By Veronica Badzey
When Gabriel Sanchez opened his small Italian deli over ten years ago, he had no idea it would become one of the finest restaurants in San Juan Capistrano. Combining old world style with a modern flair, Tannins Restaurant and Wine Bar has become more than an eatery specializing in delicious Mediterranean-Italian cuisine with exceptionally curated California wines. “We have evolved to take care of the customer’s needs,” says Gabe, “and the most important thing to me is our connection with the community.”
Guests walking into Tannins are often greeted by name, and the attentive and dedicated staff work diligently to create a welcoming, neighborhood atmosphere. With almost no employee turnover, Tannins’ staff has developed a tight family bond that enables them to deliver a more enjoyable experience to the customer. “I attribute our success to our amazing staff,” enthuses Gabe. Besides making an extra effort to get to know their clientele, the chefs and servers from Tannins can frequently be found volunteering for local charities and area schools, such as St. Margaret’s Episcopal School across the street, which provided Tannins with some of its first customers in its early days as a deli.
With menu items like Grilled Rib-Eye, Seafood Linguini, and handmade pizzas, it’s easy to find something to suit your palate. The restaurant’s signature olive spread provides a mouth-watering start to any dish, and a full range of delectable desserts such as Crème Brulée and Verona Tiramisu round out a truly decadent dining experience. Stop by for Tail Tuesday, Tannins answer to the Taco Tuesday trend. Savor filet and lobster tail, shipped in every week from the East Coast, for a mere $25.
Featuring Northern Mediterranean and Southern Italian cuisine, Tannins’ fare tends to be lighter than typical Italian offerings, accentuating quality, freshness, and environmentally conscious products. “We’re almost 100% green,” says Gabe, “and we’re always looking for ways to decrease our environmental footprint. It’s very important to our staff, and many of our customers.”
The restaurant’s layout encourages lively conversation between guests and staff, with a warm Mediterranean theme adding to its casual vibe. An open kitchen layout allows customers to interact directly with chefs as they prepare dishes and the pizza window gives you a view of your pie being made in real time. Modifications are always accommodated, and special requests are common, especially by regulars.
As the restaurant’s name implies, there’s a big emphasis on wine, specifically procurement and pairings. The wine list focuses almost exclusively on premiere California labels, because, as Wine Manager Jesse Clanton puts it, “We live in the cradle of some of the best wines in the world.” With a talent for discovering local brands destined to become great successes – like the now-famous La Crema Chardonnay – Tannins is a treat for the connoisseur and causal wine drinker alike. “My goal is to bring you something you can’t find in your neighborhood grocery store,” shares Jesse, who sources new varietals from wine vendors on a weekly basis. Whatever your taste, you’re sure to find a new and exciting glass or bottle of white, red or bubbles that you’ve never experienced. Don’t hesitate to ask the knowledgeable staff for food and wine pairing recommendations; they gladly welcome the opportunity to assist.
For your next gathering or special event, ask about the Levendi Cave, an intimate, elegantly decorated room that’s perfect for rehearsal dinners, holiday parties, or even your monthly book club. Tannins’ Wine Cellar offers an ideal venue for business meetings or corporate functions. When you need an event catered, Tannins will accommodate any size party. No order is too small or too large, and a manager is always on call to tailor a menu to a customer’s specific needs and budget.
Tannins Restaurant and Wine Bar is open seven days a week, with Monday through Sunday lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wine Wednesdays offer half-priced bottles of wine, and Monday Happy Hour runs until 9 p.m., with reductions on even premium spirits. Visit TanninsRestaurant.com for more information and a glimpse of its private event spaces.