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Tin Canteen features homemade pasta and Napoli-inspired pizzas among its casual, tasty, and wholesome Italian meals

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After having to pass up the chance to be in Tuscany, Italy, for my cousin Tricia's destination wedding this month, my husband and I decided to do the next best thing. We visited a whole new country pretty close to home: Tin Canteen, the new Little Italy in Tin City, next to Etto Pastificio

I knew it was going to be phenomenal because I'm already in Etto's pasta fan club. I bought Tricia a wedding gift of a year's supply of Etto ravioli. Unfortunately, it never made it out of my kitchen.

DEAR OLD NAPOLI This is the pizza that gets the Italians excited. Soft, thin, bubbly crust and simple, fresh ingredients. Straight out of the wood-burning oven, this is the BLTE: bacon, roasted tomato, mozzarella,Tuscan pecorino, arugula, egg, and aioli. - PHOTOS BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photos By Beth Giuffre
  • DEAR OLD NAPOLI This is the pizza that gets the Italians excited. Soft, thin, bubbly crust and simple, fresh ingredients. Straight out of the wood-burning oven, this is the BLTE: bacon, roasted tomato, mozzarella,Tuscan pecorino, arugula, egg, and aioli.

Tin Canteen, which opened in October last year, is styled like an Italian trattoria, featuring modest regional ingredients, family-style portions, and smart, efficient, casual service.

"It's been great," said General Manager Bill Haley. "It's a great location. We get a lot of destination people coming to Tin City and they choose to dine with us most of the time, which we appreciate."

FARM-TO-TABLE FARE Walking into the Tin Canteen, you are greeted with the lovely aroma of wood-fired pizzas, rich Wagyu meatballs, herbs, and garlic. Pictured is the kale Caesar with boquerones for the table. - PHOTOS BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photos By Beth Giuffre
  • FARM-TO-TABLE FARE Walking into the Tin Canteen, you are greeted with the lovely aroma of wood-fired pizzas, rich Wagyu meatballs, herbs, and garlic. Pictured is the kale Caesar with boquerones for the table.

The restaurant—industrial chic and effortlessly hip—is a partnership between Etto Pastaficio and Giornata Winery owners Brian and Stephanie Terrizzi and SLO County restaurateur Bill Hales. Danelle Jarzynski, who started as sous chef at Tin Canteen (as well as sous chef at Daou Vineyards and Winery) will be transitioning into the executive chef position in mid August.

On one of the restaurant's walls is painted the definition of "canteen," with synonyms that include "mess hall" and "cafeteria." In other words: Sit back and relax. No one will be miffed if you arrive in flip-flops.

There are no cloths on Tin Canteen's tables, which we'd spill our tomato sauce on anyway, and the restaurant features a delightful open kitchen and a window into the Etto pasta shop, where you can see the pasta being made before it ends up on your plate.

INDUSTRIAL SLICK It's a no-reservations type of place. The only restaurant in Tin City, Tin Canteen offers an exciting alternative to the typical Tin City food truck fare. - PHOTOS BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photos By Beth Giuffre
  • INDUSTRIAL SLICK It's a no-reservations type of place. The only restaurant in Tin City, Tin Canteen offers an exciting alternative to the typical Tin City food truck fare.

The patio next to a soothing zen waterfall holds several tables, but we chose a spot in the restaurant because the air conditioning kept it cool. It was Friday night, full of diners, and we got there early enough to not have to wait for a table. On some of the busier times, the kitchen is known to bring out pizza for those waiting along the wall or at the bar.

The wait staff moved around quickly. Our server, Morgan, gave us the skinny on the menu: The food is inspired by the best seasonal, local ingredients, and there are some Italian gems on the wine list. We asked what her favorite pasta would be, and she said she loves the casarecce (twisty noodle) Bolognese with the Wagyu beef ragu.

At Tin Canteen, they also use tender, marbled Wagyu—from Snake River Farm in Boise, Idaho—in their meatballs, which they serve with tomato sauce, garlic toast, and Parmigiano, and for the flat iron steak frites with a red wine reduction and garlic fries.

FREE TOUR Want to see how your pasta is made? Lift your child up to the window to the neighbors at Etto Pastaficio pasta factory. You may see your bucatini come right out of the pasta machine! - PHOTOS BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photos By Beth Giuffre
  • FREE TOUR Want to see how your pasta is made? Lift your child up to the window to the neighbors at Etto Pastaficio pasta factory. You may see your bucatini come right out of the pasta machine!

Other simple, scrumptious menu items include starters like grilled octopus, bruscetta, and the ever-popular fish and chips; sandwiches that range from lamb burgers to albacore melts; pastas made on-site from Etto with every sauce imaginable; and authentic Italian-style pizzas. All sandwiches can be served with mixed greens, garlic fries, or a vegetable for three extra bucks.

We ordered the kale Caesar with boquerones (anchovies), and the rich fettuccine funghi pasta with crimini mushrooms, butter, and Parmigiano; the BLTE pizza with bacon, roasted tomato, mozzarella, Tuscan pecorino, drizzled with aioli, and topped with egg and arugula. We also indulged in a couple of beers from Central Coast Brewing: the Nitro Coffee Stout P-Nut Butter Breakdown and the Juice Almighty Hazy IPA.

The finely shredded salad with creamy Caesar dressing melted in our mouths, and the anchovies were fresh and lemony, in their prime.

I had no doubt that Brian Terrizzi, who owns Etto and co-owns the Tin Canteen, would be serving up perfect organic noodles for the fettuccine funghi, but the dish was sauced so divinely and the mushrooms were so full of flavor, I couldn't get over it. The salad and pasta filled us up, so we each had only one slice of pizza and took the rest home.

The pizza was 100 percent Neapolitan style: thin, soft, bubbly crust (with those special charred spots), made with organic Italian flour, fresh tomato sauce, and quality cheese, packed with flavor, and well balanced. Not too much bacon. Not too much cheese. You can't go to Tin Canteen and not say, "This is exactly what I wished for."

You can order wines by the glass, by the 500 ml carafe, or 1 liter carafe. Just like in Italy, most of this neighborhood trattoria's wines are local and good. So just choose red or white, and it comes in a glass carafe. There's even a part on the wine list labeled: "Just try it white, always interesting, always rotating."

CASUAL TRATTORIA FEEL The Tin Canteen has become a place for locals and visitors alike. Families come in by the droves, and many don't even need to see the kids menu because the pizzas are for everyone! - PHOTOS BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photos By Beth Giuffre
  • CASUAL TRATTORIA FEEL The Tin Canteen has become a place for locals and visitors alike. Families come in by the droves, and many don't even need to see the kids menu because the pizzas are for everyone!

The local wines offered at Tin Canteen include a Giornata aglianico and a Transmission Wines rosé of grenache. There are also several wines from the Old Country, including an unusual red sparkling Lambrusco. General Manager Haley told me they like to offer local wines for travelers who come to the wine country for Central Coast wine, and they offer imports, too, so that the local wine lovers can have some fun.

The beer list is impressive, with a roster of drafts 16 beers deep, and you can buy from local craft beer makers in 10 ounce or 16 ounce pours.

But Tin Canteen is not trying to be fancy. They serve Coors Light and Budweiser as well. And for 10 bucks, you can buy the kitchen a round. Hey, why not? When in Rome, oh wait, when in Paso ... . I keep thinking I'm at Tricia's wedding. Δ

New Times contributor Beth Giuffre is raising a glass of house red and saying grazie mille. Send espresso and limoncello to bgiuffre@newtimesslo.com.

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