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Pyrenees offers Spanish tapas, Basque punch

Linda Hiller

Open for only six weeks, The Pyrenees Bar, located next to the Adaven Hotel in Gardnerville, has been catching the eye of residents and tourists alike lately, as they drive through town on Highway 395.

The colorful Basque cross out front catches your eye first.

If you’re going the speed limit, you can afford to let your eyes drop to the name, The Pyrenees Bar. Farther down you’ll read the specialty of the house: tapas.

A culinary delight of Spain, tapas means delectable, flavorful Spanish appetizers.

At The Pyrenees Bar, the word “tapas” harkens back to the owners’ Basque heritage.

Fulfilling a dream to open an eating establishment, Juan and Michele Leonis decided they needed something to tide them over in the wintertime when the family gardening business was dormant.

Juan was born in the beautiful Basque region of the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain 49 years ago.

The youngest of six children, he left Spain at the age of 18 to come to America like many of his countrymen and family members, escaping the fascist dictatorship of Spain’s leader, General Francisco Franco.

The Pyrenees Bar is full of Basque family pictures, scenery from the Pyrenees Mountain region, as well as a large mural dedicated to his grandfather.

The tapas offered at the bar right now are: traditional chorizo from Spain served with cheese, sardines and/or anchovies served with French bread, green olives and peppercinis.

Juan recommends trying the Basque picon punch with that.

“We use grenadine, torani, brandy and club soda for the punch,” he said. “It’s delicious.”

From time to time, Juan said he plans to bring in live music, and video poker machines will hopefully be operational by summer.

Juan and Michele (who is also part Basque) have three children, Damasa, 12, Margarita, 11 and Juan, 10.

The Pyrenees Bar is located at 1435 Highway 395 with parking in the back. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to “whenever it dies down,” Juan said. For more information, call 782- 5459.