The Gilda is the most popular and best-known pintxos, or tapas, from the Basque region of Spain.  It was created more than 65 years ago in the beautiful and food-obsessed coastal city of San Sebastián, and named for the title character, played by Rita Hayworth, in the 1946 film noir "Gilda," directed by Charles Vidor. 

The story goes that despite the film's risqué plot, it managed to get through the then-censorship of the Franco regime, inspiring locals to create a spicy pintxos as a subversive endorsement of the film's femme fatale's boldness and independence. 

All these years later, Rita Hayworth posters remain popular in the wine bars of San Sebastián, as do small glass jars filled with these olive oil-slicked stacks of Manzanilla olives, guindilla peppers, and anchovies. 

Gildas have become internationally popular, their subtle spiciness and bright flavor making them a perfect partner for a cocktail or glass of wine, sherry or cold vermouth.  (Although when I was in San Sebastián and first discovered Gildas, they were also served at breakfast in our hotel -- they are that popular!)  They are also low in calories, in contrast to many typical hors d'oeuvres.

They are easy to make and are basically assembled, not cooked.  You'll need cocktail sticks, which are essentially large toothpicks.  The ones used in Spain, made from wood, are themselves called pintxos. And a drizzle of olive oil will help keep the Gildas from darken while they wait to be enjoyed.  Because a Gilda is so simple, use the best quality ingredients you can find as each flavor is important.

Gildas are best eaten in one bite -- getting a mouthful combination of the salty olive and anchovy with the subtle heat of the green pepper.  So raise a glass and take a bite --  ¡Salud

This recipe makes 8 Gildas, intending two for each person.



  1. Have ready 8 cocktail sticks or large and long toothpicks.
  2. Pierce an olive with the cocktail stick and position it to the stick's center.
  3. Take an anchovy, and while keeping it whole, thread it onto the stick so that it wraps around the olive (see the photograph.
  4. Take a guindilla pepper -- either a whole one if it is small, or else cut a larger pepper into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces -- and pierce and slide a piece of pepper onto either side of the anchovy wrapped olive.

Spanish ingredients are increasingly easy to find but if you don't have a local Spanish market like Despaña in NYC'a SoHo, you can find jars of guindilla peppers at Amazon.  With some patience, I'm sure they will also be available when chef José Andrés opens his Spanish food court at NYC's Hudson Yards sometime next year, although that's a long time to wait for the delight of making and eating a Gilda. 



SpanishHors d’oeuvresTapasOlivesAnchovies

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