Co-owner Julio Caro (who hails from Madrid) strives for authenticity in the Spanish fare at this midpriced St. James entry, where tapas include the likes of chorizo frito (pork sausage sautéed in sherry) and the house specialty paella is made to order; a long bar dominates the front, while a large dining room beyond is adorned with white tablecloths topped with colorful placemats.

New in St. James: España Tapas & Wine bar
Tuesday April 26, 2011 12:07 PM By Joan Reminick
Don’t you just love surprises? España, a new tapas restaurant in St. James, is exactly that. If not for its bright red and yellow sign, I’d probably have whizzed right past it. But what looked like a slip of a storefront squeezed next door to a barber shop turned out to be something else entirely once I opened the door.
The place – narrow in front – harbors a long bar, a dining room and then another, much larger room filled with tables. Everything is pretty and comfortable, decorated with Spanish tiles and pictures and posters from every region of Spain.
Co-owner Julio Caro, a former wine salesman who managed some Spanish restaurants in Manhattan, is a welcoming presence. He recites specials, comments on the menu and offers suggestions from the list of affordably priced wines by the glass and bottle.
Sipping fruit-filled sangria, Rioja and Malbec, three of us shared a big platter of meats, cheeses and olives ($16.95) that included some lovely Serrano ham, mildly spicy chorizo (dry-cured pork sausage) and cheeses, among them Valdeon (a sheep and cow’s milk blue cheese), tetilla (Galician sheep’s milk cheese), two kinds of Manchego (also sheep’s milk, aged 3 and 6 months). A great pleasure.
Standing out among seafood dishes was the ultra-tender octopus, Galician style, sweet and spicy, with paprika, olive oil and potatoes ($8.95). Papas bravas, a special of fried potatoes drizzled with a spicy coral-hued sauce, was irresistible. An entree of sole in green sauce ($12.95) was good, but not quite as exciting as the tapas.
The place is co-owned by Mauricio Oliveros, who also owns the nearby Maurcio’s Orlando II.Keep in mind, if the front parking lot looks filled, that there are lots more spaces in the rear.
España Tapas & Wine Bar is at 655 Middle Country Rd., St. James, 631-656-1564.
Above, the papas bravas at España in St. James

12 Long Island restaurants serving small plates
At this classically Spanish tapas and wine bar, host Julio Caro will guide you through the roster of traditional small plates. Try the tender Galician-style octopus with sweet and spicy paprika, as well as the assorted Spanish meats and cheeses, the crisp patas bravas and croquetas de jamon -- crunchy little ham croquettes. Most small plates in the $7-to-$11 range.

Small plates make it big on Long Island
A year ago, it seemed as if Long Island couldn't accommodate another small-plates restaurant. Then a dozen more opened. Now, small plates threaten Asian fusion as the most pervasive local dining trend.
Indeed, small plates have become a nationwide phenomenon. According to Bret Thorn, senior food editor at the trade magazine Nation's Restaurant News, "Diners are looking to trade down from full meals to multicourse meals," he said. "Besides a desire to save money, Americans are more interested in trying new things."
Some of Long Island's small plateries, such as España in St. James, draw their inspiration from traditional tapas, the bar-snacks of Spain. Café Buenos Aires in Huntington adds an Argentine twist. Lola in Great Neck serves an array of innovative global tapas. Salumi in Massapequa is particularly strong on cured meats and cheeses
Long Island restaurant picks for octopus
At this Spanish tapas spot, the tender Galician-style octopus is simply boiled and then tossed with a sweet and spicy mix of Spanish paprika, olive oil and sea salt. It's plated over sliced boiled potatoes and served, in classic manner, on a wood plate.