Gastrophoria is a hearty plank of Racion’s caramelized calamari pintxo.
For the uninitiated, pintxo is simply an another word for tapas, most often used to describe foods from the San Sebastian area in Spain. It’s a wondrous place where narrow streets are filled to the brim with countless pintxo bars, each serving small bites of Basque specialties.
At Racion, they take the concept an extra step further and present some of their sauciest pintxos on grilled bread. Simple, yet perceptive. It’s as if they heeded all my unspoken calls for bread from the times I’ve had saucy foods (any dish with mussels, right?!).
Such is the case with their calamari. Instead of the omnipresent battered and fried variety associated with tapas, here they’re lovingly grilled on a plancha and served atop bright lemon aioli and caramelized onions that literally melts in your mouth. Think onion jam. Best part is all of that saucy goodness is absorbed by the wedge of grilled homemade bread below. No sloppy mopping needed.
The duo behind Racion, Teresa Montano and Loretta Peng, graciously invited me to their kitchen for a behind-the-scene look. Turns out this dish requires 2 days to create as they create every element of the dish from scratch—including the bread itself!
Made from scratch daily with a 2-year old flour-and-water starter and proofed overnight, each loaf of bread is given plenty of TLC from Loretta. Just before they start service each night, loaves of freshly risen bread are baked off in their own individual cast iron pans. This creates their signature hearty crust that just can’t be beat.
While the bread is baking, Theresa prepped razor clams that were delivered by Santa Monica Seafood—their fates are to be sauté that night, yum!
When the loaves are well-rested, it was time to finish the dish. On the plancha goes a hefty plank of their homemade bread with fresh squid. The onions are slowly cooked till they’re evenly caramelized and jam-like. When the bread is ready, it gets a nice layer of lemon aioli (house made of course) and melted onions. The calamari are then sliced and arranged on top, follow with a squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of parsley.
Now that is labor of love. It’s no wonder Racion made it on LA Weekly’s 99 Essential Restaurant List and celebrated its 1st birthday. Each dish on their menu, big or small, are given as much care as this pintxo.
Same goes for their journey to create open this gem of a restaurant, documented on their blog and how they continue to run the restaurant. Their secret according to Theresa? To always do right by people, whether it be their staff, guests or even vendors. And to cultivate and work with a great team.
Thank you to Teresa and Loretta and happy eating!
119 W Green St
Pasadena, CA 91105
Phone: (626) 396-3090
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