Tapas undoubtedly have origins in Spanish cuisine. Centuries ago in Southern Spain, slices of meat or bread were served on tops of drink glasses as a way to protect sweet wines from fruit flies. These “lids” or “covers” (which are what tapas roughly translate to in English) also served the purpose of increasing bar-goers thirst for more drinks.
Tapas are still a popular item at Spanish bars today, and in the intervening years have evolved past simple breads and meats to richer and more flavorful dishes. Other ethnicities have also developed their own takes on the tradition.
Many of the most popular Spanish tapas reflect the variety of regions and available food in Spain. Cold and fried seafood tapas dishes reflect the cuisines of coastal taverns while lamb and pork dishes represent Spaniards from the central and western plains of the country. The eastern regions of Spain closest to the Mediterranean Sea have influenced the numerous herbs, spices and lettuce varieties found in some of Nia’s most popular salads and dishes.
Mediterranean tapas are also referred to as “mezze,” a Turkish expression for “to snack” or “taste.” Some of the most notable influences of mezze on tapas are olives, chickpeas, hummus and flavorful olive oils. For the full Mediterranean tapas experience, start off with our saganaki – a favorite among Greek restaurants – while making sure to exclaim “OPA!” when the flame hits the succulent sheep’s milk cheese. Try out our Greek salad as a main dish or our signature Nia salad to share in a group; or for a hot dish, you must try our succulent Lamb & Feta Meatballs.
Italian takes on tapas are rich in tomatoes and tomato sauces, spices and – of course – lots of mozzarella cheese. Many of our most popular dishes are inspired by the Italian cuisine, such as our crab cake dish with saffron aioli to our diver scallops with sun-dried tomato pesto to our bacon-wrapped dates with red pepper butter sauce. We also carry multiple hot Italian dishes as tapas, from our seasonal gnocchi to our savory prosciutto di parma. Finish your group dinner with a classic Italian dessert: our espresso tiramisu served with Italian mascarpone cheese and ladyfinders.
No matter the ethnicity, Nia Mediterranean Tapas is committed to the highest quality and taste you can find at any Chicago tapas establishment (or elsewhere)! Take a look at our menus for more information on our succulent ethnic-inspired tapas dishes, and contact us to book your next group lunch or dinner.