Here in Northern Spain, and especially in Gijón, a pincho is usually a small roll with a tuna, ham, cheese, chorizo or another filling, or similar contents on a slice of bread all held together with a toothpick (or cocktail stick in the fancier establishments!). Local folk usually have a pincho or two for their mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, accompanied by a coffee, soft drink, wine or beer. They are often set out on the bar top and you can usually help yourself, but remember to keep count when it comes to paying!
Another form of pincho that is quite common in Gijón and highly appreciated by patrons comprises the small complementary titbit accompanying a drink in most of the city’s bars and cafes. You can sometimes help yourself from a platter on the bar, but don’t take more than one (two at the most!), as your custom won’t necessarily be appreciated. This type of snack is called a tapa or tapita in other parts of Spain, especially Andalucía.
Up north, however, tapas constitute a small cooked dish, usually served hot in a small earthenware casserole dish or on a plate, while a ración is simply a larger serving. They are great for sharing with the family or friends. When ordering, the rule of thumb is a tapa per head plus or minus one depending on how hungry you are. Some of the most typical tapas in Gijón are: chorizo cooked in cider (chorizo a la sidra), fried or braised baby squid (chipirones), fried squid rings (calamares fritos), braised squid in an “inky” sauce (calamares en su tinta), cured ham or salt cod croquettes (croquetas de jamón or de bacalao), chunky fries with a spicy tomato sauce (patatas bravas), fried young sardines (parrochas), fried fresh anchovies (bocartes), braised liver with onions (higado encebollada), fried garlic chicken pieces (pollo al ajillo) and potato salad (ensaladilla rusa).
¡Que aproveche! – Enjoy!