Tin City gets ‘Canteen’

Michele Gargari is the head chef of Tin Canteen, a restaurant in the Tin City area north of Templeton. (Photo by Camas Frank)

Menu inspired by Tuscan roots of head chef

burgeoning center for tasting rooms and wine-oriented businesses for several years, Tin City, in the industrial area just north of Templeton has its first dedicated eatery.

With any name on the table to choose from, owners went with Tin Canteen, signifying a communal gathering point reminiscent of a camp or rugged home base for troops.

Open since the end of 2018, the name fits, as they’ve attracted the surrounding winemakers and locals as well as tourists drawn to the neighborhood by the wide selection of vino nearby.

The Canteen’s wine director, Jenna Congdon, responded to the unique location by instituting a policy of local wines on tap with all of their space for bottles reserved for imports from, around the world but, notably, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany.

“We get a lot of the industry people in here and it gives them a chance see something a little more exotic at a low mark up [compared to store-bought bottles],” she explained.

A long time in the development phase, Tin Canteen is the product of a complex business partnership between the owner of Etto Pastificio —  the pasta maker literally next door — Brian Terrizzi, the folks from the regional restaurateur conglomerate ASH management, and the Canteen’s head chef, Michele Gargari.

Gargari explains that the menu is inspired mostly from his Tuscan upbringing and life in kitchens since his first job at 15 years old.

Some concessions have to be made to the American habit of large and varied menus he notes, but as much as possible he’s sticking with traditional dishes based on season and regional ingredient availability.

Pasta and wood-fired pizza being the most versatile for anyone going vegan or vegetarian, there’s also grilled Mediterranean octopus, pork ribs, and meatballs for carnivores.

For those that tend to think of Italian cuisine as being all about the cheese, he says that’s more of an American invention, with the food he grew up on using meat and cheeses sparingly for flavor and protein.

However, there are no such restrictions on guest’s ordering. Flavor rich cheesecake is quite the crowd pleaser on their dessert menu.

As he caught up on some paperwork with suppliers during a brief lull after a Friday lunch rush, Gargari brainstormed on a slip of receipt paper, listing fresh ingredients for an upcoming special.

“I can tell you what people like, but don’t ask me for a favorite on the menu,” he jokes. “It’s like asking me to choose from my children.”

Current Canteen hours are 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Sunday; and 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  A hiring and training push is on however to staff longer full-time hours and an upstairs event venue is being readied for private gatherings.

More information and a menu is online at www.tincanteenpaso.net.

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Michele Gargari is the head chef of Tin Canteen, a restaurant in the Tin City area north of Templeton. (Photo by Camas Frank)