Pizzeria Italiana

pizzeria italia

Last week I was looking at nearby towns to visit in Maresme. I’d been through Canet de Mar many times on the train, but when looking out of the window, all I saw was the beach on one side and the main road (N II) on the other side. A page on the internet grabbed my attention when I discovered that the other famous Catalan Modernist architect (next to Gaudi), Lluís Domènech i Montaner had built a house in Canet along with many other buildings there. Montaner is particularly well known for designing the Palau de la Música and Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona.

carrer ample

It was 1.30pm, so I grabbed my camera and got the first train south to Canet (3 stops down from Calella). The journey took longer than expected, due to a problem on the line – normally it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes or so! I had a quick look around for restaurants on the streets at the bottom of town near the station, but most were doing tapas, burgers or pizza.

pizzeria interior

I turned right into Carrer Ample and came across the Pizzeria Italiana with a good sized terrace and a lot of locals eating.

pizzeria menú del día

I wouldn’t normally go to a pizzeria in Cataluña, but they had a decent looking menú del dia for €11.90 and I was starving. I took a risk and was very pleasantly surprised.

vi rosat

I drank a glass of vi rosat, while I waited for my order.

provolone al for

My starter was a fantastic baked dish of Italian Provolone cheese with a little tomato and herbs. It was heavenly!

pa

The Provolone arrived with bread, which looked and tasted home made – I assume it was baked in the pizza oven. It was so good I scoffed the lot!

canalons de carn

My main course was Canalons de Carn – cannelloni stuffed with a beef ragu, topped with besciamella (béchamel) and baked in the oven. Utterly delicious!

mel amb mató

As if I hadn’t had enough cheese, I ordered mel i mató for pudding – this is a traditional Catalan whey cheese, normally served (as it is here) with a drizzle of honey.

carajillo

I drank my usual carajillo with brandy for courage and a boost to get me up the mountain after all that cheese.

factura

The bill came to a whopping €16.20 and was well worth every penny!

Pizzeria Italiana is at: C/ Ample, 29, 08360 Canet de Mar, Barcelona.

canet de mar

Fully restored I set out to explore Canet de Mar – above is the main street, Riera Sant Domenèc going up the mountain from the sea. This (like in many Maresme towns) was once a river.

canet beach

Behind me is the beach and Mediterranean Sea.

casa montaner

Domènech i Montaner’s summer house (Casa Montaner) is just one street up and on the junction of C/ Ample, where I had lunch. The house has been turned into the Domènech i Montaner House Museum, though sadly it was closed today – a good reason to return to Canet another day.

There were many other buildings to see, regardless. The above are examples of the houses I passed while climbing up the narrow streets to the top of the town. Canet was once a very prosperous textiles town and the money was used to create some stunning buildings

odeon entrance

Behind the central church (Parròquia de Sant Pere i Sant Pau), there’s a derelict building called the Odeon – this was built by the Canet Company, the oldest cooperative (mutual society) in Spain and it once housed a bakery, general store, theater, cinema, library and coffee bar. The cooperative was founded in 1865, though the Odeon wasn’t built until 1924.

odeon rear

In the 1980s the Odeon fell into disrepair – much of the upper building (above) fell down or was removed. In the last decade the upper section has been restored and there are plans to renovate and reopen the whole building. The back of the Parròquia de Sant Pere i Sant Pau (church) can be seen above right.

muntanya

I thought I’d more or less reached the extent of the town, but as I walked up Carrer Abell Baix, I noticed a tree lined avenue in the distance.

passeig nostra senyora misericòrdia

This turned out to be Passeig Nostra Senyora Misericòrdia, a beautiful street with walkway and trees running down the middle, going up a steep hill.

casa carbonell

Passeig Nostra Senyora Misericòrdia is lined with the mansions (and these days some empty plots, where the houses have fallen down) of wealthy industrialists from a bygone age. Halfway up on the right, is Casa Carbonell i Forns, built by Pere Domènech i Roura for industrialist John Carbonell Paloma between 1909 – 1910.

santuari de la mare de déu de la misericòrdia

At the top of the mountain and Passeig Nostra Senyora Misericòrdia, is the Santuari de la Mare de Déu de la Misericòrdia, built between 1853 and 1857 in a Neo-Gothic style.

restaurante el santuari

Amazingly, just to the right of the church is a fabulous Modernist building, the Restaurante el Santuari, built by architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch in 1898. Imagine going to church on a Sunday morning and them popping in here for lunch!

fabrica jover i cia

I walked down the mountain and towards the Mediterranean on Riera Pinar, which becomes the main shopping street. I couldn’t help wondering what Fabrica Jover I Cia (designed by Domènech i Montaner) had been like, when it was a working factory in 1903.

casa roura

Finally, I sat and drank a vermut at the bottom of town in sight of the sea. While I sipped my drink, I admired the dragons on the tower opposite of Casa Rourabuilt as a residence for Ricard de Capmany, once again by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Casa Roura is now a restaurant and I believe it does a good menú del día – what a great reason for coming back to Canet! I thought I was drinking in an ordinary Catalan bar with terrace at the front, but when I went in to pay and use the bathroom, I discovered that Bar Blau has a large swimming pool at the back… This is an interesting town!

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Sant Joan

flors

The biggest festival in Cataluña is Sant Joan (St. John), which takes place every year on 23rd and 24th June. This is also a celebration of the summer solstice (albeit two days late), Sant Joan having been born (according to the church calendar) six months before Jesus on June 24th.

església parroquial

The larger part of the celebrations, take place here on the evening of 23rd June (and in many other European countries), so on that morning, I went to see what was going on around the older part of town. In the Església Parroquial (of Santa Maria i Sant Nicolau), they’d made a beautiful carpet of flowers and petals down the main aisle (top picture).

coca de sant joan

I went to buy bread in my favourite bakery (Canapé) on C/ de l’Església, where they were selling Coca de Sant Joan. Coca is a flat bread (not unlike pizza) which can be sweet or savoury. These are particular to Catalan speaking regions, including the Balearics and Valencia. The word coca comes from Dutch and is related to the words kuchen (German) and cake (English). In this case, Coca de Sant Joan is sweet and generally eaten on the eve of Sant Joan with a glass of dessert wine or cava.

foguera

In Calella, the Sant Joan celebrations start when the Flama del Canigó (flame of Canigó) is brought down from the mountains, to light a bonfire on the Passeig de Manuel Puigvert (at 21.30), next to the sea.

sopars

People sit down to a communal sopar (supper) in the middle of Passeig de Manuel Puigvert, from about 22.00, bringing their own food and drink,

bar

or buying refreshments at the bar. The most common food being coca and botifarra (a typical Catalan sausage, which dates back to the Romans).

smoke

Throughout the night there’s a constant barrage of fireworks – you can see how smokey it is (above) during a lull in the explosions.

roman candle

Grown ups and children (of all ages) set off Roman Candles, petardos (bangers) and rockets.

focs artificials

The fiesta goes on until dawn, with people camping on the beaches, eating, drinking and setting off their focs artificial. It’s like a full on artillery battery!
The day of Sant Joan is somewhat quieter.

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Restaurant Diagonal

diagonal

I was back in Pineda on Wednesday and went straight to Diagonal – an interesting restaurant that I’d noticed previously.

farm and mountains

As I mentioned before, Pineda de Mar, is about a 30 minute walk from Calella. Initially the two towns meet, but after a couple of streets there’s a 15 minute or so stretch that’s just fields of vegetables. There’s a quiet road between the crops – the sea is on the right and the mountains on the left. At the end of the farmland the town starts again and within a couple of streets, there are lots of shops and restaurants.

diagonal menú

I liked the look of the Diagonal menú del día on a previous visit to the town, but Ibèrick’s looked slightly more exciting that day. I’m always interested in discovering new restaurants, so this week I went back to see what I’d missed. The menú del día here is €13.50 for 3 courses, including wine or beer.

diagonal interior

Diagonal is a very modern looking restaurant, with a dinning room to the left of the bar.

diagonal awning

I chose to sit outside on the terrace, which is covered with an awning. It was fantastic sitting out of the sun and with a gentle breeze blowing from the sea.

vi rosat

I’d stopped earlier on for a refreshing vermut, after crossing the Pineda farmland, so here I promptly started in on the vi rosat – they give you a half liter jug of house wine with the menú. It’s quite drinkable.

carbassó farcit de marisc

I ordered a fantastic carbassó farcit de marisc amb salsa de gambes (courgette stuffed with shellfish in a prawn sauce) as my starter.

pa

I made sure I mopped up all the delicious prawn sauce with the rustic bread!

guatlles en escabetx

My main was an excellent guatlles en escabetx – quail in escabeche sauce (see her for my escabeche recipe).

comtessa

For pudding I had a guilty pleasure – Comtessa. This famous ice cream cake became known by it’s international name, Viennetta in 1998, but 20 years later, has been relaunched with it’s original title.

el pero

I couldn’t help noticing a hungry little dog while I scoffed my dessert.

carajillo

As usual I finished my meal with a carajillo de cognac for courage and a caffeine kick.

factura

You will see that the total bill came to €15.85.

I thoroughly recommend Diagonal – the food is excellent and the staff are very helpful. I will be returning.

Restaurant Diagonal is at: Avenida Montserrat 19, 08397 Pineda de Mar, Barcelona.

yzaguirre

Fortified, I strolled down the road towards the sea and found a nice little square surrounded by pine trees, with a convenient bar. Here I enjoyed my second vermut of the day – Yzaguirre from Tarragona, to the south of Cataluña. This gave me the required energy to walk home.

gegants

Last weekend (14th – 17th June ) Calella celebrated it’s Festa Major de Sant Quirze i Santa Julita (the main town festival, for Saint Quirze and Saint Julita). There were fireworks, dinners in the street and a parade of gegants (giants) on Sunday. The above are Calella’s gegants in front of the adjuntament (town hall). All the nearby towns of Maresme, brought their own giants and the parade went down the main street – C/ de l’Església.

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Restaurante Capote

restaurante capote

On Tuesday I had lunch at Restaurante Capote in Arenys de Mar (sands by the sea), three train stops south of Calella and heading in the direction of Barcelona.

riera del bisbe pol

This is an old Catalan town dating back to the Greeks and Romans – I’ve seen the artifacts in the town museum. The main street (where I ate) is lined with trees and was once a river, going from the mountains and down to the sea at the bottom. Note, the yellow ribbons tied to trees and the electricity cables (more on that later).

menú del día

I looked around the town for somewhere to eat beforehand and came back to Capote, which is at the bottom of the street, on the left as you look up. The menú del día here was the most enticing.

capote interior

The interior is quite large – there’s a kitchen to the left and the rear opens up into a restaurant area. Even though it was about 24ºC outside, there were at least 10 people eating inside. The locals do not consider it warm just yet…

capote exterior

I was brave and sat outside – 24ºC is perfect summer weather to me!

vermut de la cassa

I drank a vermut, while I reviewed the menu. I always ask for vermut de la casa – it’s the house vermut, which means that it’s local and often homemade. Sometimes they don’t have one, in which case I’ll drink one as a digestive, somewhere else, after lunch. IMHO Catalan vermut is much better then the imported brands.

mongetes a la marinera

I ordered mongetes a la marinera (white beans in a fish sauce) as my starter. They were excellent!

vi rosat

The wine arrived with my beans – it was a very drinkable house rosado in a half liter garrafa.

lluç a la planxa

My main course was a delicious lluç a la planxa – hake cooked on the plancha (griddle), with sliced potatoes. I particularity like hake – this was cooked to perfection with olive oil, parsley and garlic.

pastel de crema catalana

For pudding, I had pastel de crema catalana – a tart made like crema catalana (which is similar to a creme brûlée). Note here, that the pastel has four dark stripes (cuatro barras) on top, like those on the yellow Catalan flag.

I was sitting eating my lunch, watching the world go by. I couldn’t help noticing that there was a couple speaking French on the table in front of me and that a very well dressed older lady came out from a door next to the restaurant and sat down. It became obvious that the lady was the matriarch and that her two sons and daughters run the family restaurant. The woman speaking French, on the table in front of me, got up to use the bathroom and commented favourably, on the Catalan braces that I was wearing – like the pastel above, they are yellow with 4 red stripes. Evidently, she’s from Barcelona and her boyfriend is French. At this point, the Capote matriarch joined the conversation, saying that she is Catalan Adalucian and that she believes firmly in Cataluña staying part of Spain.

In case you are unaware, there’s a huge political movement for Catalan independence and it can be quite a hot topic. I wear the braces because they were a gift and I’ve always been very well looked after in Cataluña. I also wear a little yellow ribbon pin (lazo amarillo), like the ones hanging from the trees in the picture above, of the high street. I wear this in support of democracy and the Catalan MPs who are in prison charged with sedition for organising an illegal independence referendum. Personally, I believe that the question of Catalan independence is something for the Catalans and Spanish government to decide – it’s not for the likes of foreigners such as myself to interfere. It’s difficult enough when Cataluña contains Spain’s second largest city (Barcelona) and many Spaniards have migrated here over the last century. It’s estimated that over 50% of the Catalan population is of other Spanish regional extraction. The question of independence poses a huge dilemma for many second and third generation Catalans who consider themselves Spanish and Catalan. There are many issues and grievances here, some of which date back to (among others) General Franco’s rule and the War of Spanish Succession.

carajillo

Fortunately the political discussion was brief and I ordered my habitual carajillo for coraje (courage). At this point a homeless man came round and asked for money. I was quite impressed when the family matriarch (who by this time I’d discovered is 80 years old) took the man inside and got someone to make him some food.

factura

Finally, when I asked for the bill I was amazed by the price – €13.70 for everything. I will be back!

torre d´en llobet

Infused with courage and energy from the carjillo I set about exploring the town properly. Just behind the restaurant, in a side street, I came across an old defense tower (I believe there are two others), from the 16th Century – built to defend the town against marauding pirates.

ajuntament

On the same street as and opposite to Capote is the Ajuntament d’Arenys de Mar (town hall) – built in the 17th Century and originally a hostel and bakery.

església de santa maria

The Església de Santa Maria (further up the main street) was built between the 16th and 18th Centuries and contains a stunning gold altarpiece by Pau Costa.

arenys de mar

The coffee and brandy worked miracles – I walked up tiny little streets and eventually found myself at the top of the town, looking down on the Santa Maria church and port. Arenys de Mar is a major port for fishing, yachting and boat building. Sadly I missed the beautiful indoor market, which is only open in the morning on a Tuesday, but this gives me very good reason to return…

Restaurante Capote is at: Bisbe Pol, 7 08350, Arenys de Mar, Barcelona.

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Ibèrik’s Restaurant

ibèrik’s

I had a fabulous lunch in Pineda de Mar at Ibèrik’s Restaurant on Monday.

pineda de mar

I took a walk to Pineda, the next town along from Calella, which takes about 25 minutes. There’s no visible border between the two towns, but after the initial couple of streets, the houses disappear and the road goes through small holdings and allotments for half a mile or so, with mountains on the left and the Mediterranean to the right. After crossing a dry river, the town starts again, with quite a few bars and restaurants to choose from.

ibèrik’s menú del día

It was sunny and about 24ºC, so I was getting a little warm and thirsty when I arrived. Ibèrik’s was the first bar I came to and a couple of things on the menú del día (3 courses, including wine or beer for €11) grabbed my attention straight away. I did have a quick look at a couple of other bars first, but I was hooked, especially as I could hear friendly laughter coming from inside the bar.

vermut

I sat outside, in the cool shade and drank a vermut de la casa. Here it comes with a slice of orange, lemon and 3 olives stuffed with anchovies. I knew the food was going to be good!

salmorejo

I stuck with my initial choices and had Salmorejo con virutus de jamón – an Andalucian creamy cold tomato soup, containing garlic, stale bread, sherry vinegar and salt. This salmorejo was sprinkled with grated egg and jamón Iberico shavings. I also detected a touch of cumin. As you can see there were a couple of slices of toasted bread on the far side. The salmorejo was perfect – when I finished, I complimented the owner and discovered that he and his wife actually come from Andalucia.

vino rosado

I drank the house rosat (Monterio Rosado) – unusually a tempranillo from outside of Cataluña, but quite drinkable nonetheless.

ventresca de bacalao

My main course was Ventresca de bacalao a la donostiarra – desalinated salt cod belly (next to the head), Donostia (San Sebastian) style. This was cooked in a crunchy tempura batter, with little slices of crispy garlic on top and judías blancas on the side. There was a little sherry vinegar sauce on the cod and I was instantly reminded of fish and chips – the cod (in those days salt cod) in a tempura batter was originally brought to England, by Jews fleeing from the Inquisition. Tempura (from the Latin tempora, for time period) refers to Lenten and other fasting days, where fish and vegetables were eaten instead of meat. Portuguese missionaries took the tempura cooking technique of dipping fish and vegetables in batter, before frying them in lard, to Japan in the 16th Century. The ventresca de bacalao here was absolutely delicious!

flan de la casa

For pudding, I had the flan de la casa – a home made flan with the obligatory (in Spain) whipped cream from a spray. The cream aside, it was every bit as good as the other courses.

carajillo

Afterwards, I contentedly sipped my carajillo and watched the world go by.

ibèrik’s interior

I was thoroughly impressed by the cooking in Ibèrik’s and by the friendly husband and wife who own the place. I will definitely eat here again!

factura

The total bill for a vermut, a 3 course menú with wine and a carajillo de cognac was €15.40!

Ibèrik’s is at: Carrer Barcelona, 29, 08397 Pineda de Mar.

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La Coqueta

la coqueta

On Wednesday I had lunch with Julia and Nookie in Barcelona. They took me to a charming bar called La Coqueta. Julia particularly likes this place because they cater for carnivores and vegetarians.

la coqueta menú

I liked the look of the menú del día (above – typically chalked in Catalan, on a blackboard outside), the place was busy and our hosts were genial.

la coqueta interior

The shape of the bar is typically Catalan/Spanish – it’s a long thin space with windows in the door. This is to keep the heat out during the long hot summer. There are several tables outside under a large red umbrella, but it was windy, so we sat inside.

baked apples

As we sat down, I couldn’t help noticing some delicious looking baked apples on the counter.

vi rosat

Vi rosat was ordered, como siempre! This was the house wine and was quite drinkable.

amanida amb tomàquet i mozzarella

Nookie ordered amanida amb tomàquet i mozzarella as her starter –  mozzarella and tomato salad.

creme de carbassa, sálvia

Julia had creme de carbassa, sálvia – cream of pumpkin soup with sage.

hummus de pèsols amb torradetes

I had hummus de pèsols amb torradetes – pea hummus salad with home made toasted rusks.

risotto de bolets

Julia ordered risotto de bolets as her main course – a mushroom risotto. This is becoming a popular dish in Cataluña, using local mushrooms and rice from the Ebro Delta.

bullit de verdures

Nookie ordered bullit de verdures – mixed, boiled vegetables, sprinkled with almonds. I noticed a bit of vegetable and risotto sharing going on between my companions.

brinsa de vedella a la planxa

My main course was brinsa de vedella a la planxa, served with fried potatoes and onions – brinsa (or entraña in Spanish) is a cut of veal, from the diaphragm muscle (there are two per animal). It used to be discarded, but an influx of Argentinian and Uruguayan restaurants have made it popular. Brinsa is intensely flavoured and as part of a muscle, must be cooked fast on a hot grill or braised slowly (to stop it becoming tough). Here it was cooked on the plancha with a chimichurri sauce. It was quite tender and delicious – I’d definitely order it again!

cireres

For pudding, Julia ordered cherries.

pom al forn

Nookie and I both ordered pom al forn – those fabulous baked apples, I noticed on my way in.

cigaló

No lunch is complete without a carajillo de cognac, for courage and an energy boost – I had a lot of food shopping to do later on.

factura

As you can see, the bill for three of us came to €39.20. We were very well looked after here and I will definitely be coming back.

La Coqueta is at: Carrer de Tamarit, 101, 08015 Barcelona.

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Restaurante Marisqueria Pepet

pepet

On Tuesday we had to pick up a parcel from the neighbouring town of Pineda de Mar. Like most of the towns in Maresme, Pineda is joined to Calella – the conurbation from Barcelona up the Mediterranean coast towards France goes on for miles. Most towns are half a dozen or so streets deep, between the sea and the mountains. We thought we’d profit from the excursion by having lunch somewhere different.

interior

Restaurante Marisqueria Pepet is a stylish fish restaurant, which is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year.

I took one look at the prepared fish

along with the fresh fish and meat fridges and knew we’d eat well here.

pepet menú del día

There were quite a few things I fancied on the menú del día, which was reasonably priced at €15, for 4 courses including wine.

vi rosat

We ordered the house vi rosat, which came in a carafe, but was nonetheless, a very drinkable wine.

llonganissa i olivas

First of all came little plates of llonganissa i olivas (a cured Catalan sausage [also known as salchichón in Spanish] with olives)

braves amb all-i-oli

and braves amb all-i-oli (boiled potatoes with a garlic and olive oil emulsion). These are unusual, as patatas bravas are normally fried and served with a picante sauce.

pa rústic

The bread is worth a mention here – it’s a lovely pa rústic with a good crust.

còctel de gambes

Oli ordered a còctel de gambes (a superior prawn cocktail, complete with endive bunny ears).

combinat de navalles i zamburinyes

I had the combinat de navalles i zamburinyes planxa (deliciously sweet baby scallops and razor clams, cooked on a griddle).

combinat de peix planxa

Oli’s main course was the combinat de peix planxa (combined fish [hake and sole] cooked on a griddle and served with potato and tomato).

plat mariachi

Mine was the plat mariachi – pop brasa, xoriço i morcilla (a beautifully tender octopus tentacle, on deep fried potato sticks with a chorizo and morcilla).

assortit d’fruita

We both ordered the same pudding, assortit d’fruita natural, taronja, meló i pinya (assorted natural fruit – apple, melon and pineapple). Our waiter had us sold on the dish, when he mentioned that it came with spiced rum!

carajillo

Naturally, I had a carajillo at the end …to give me the energy to walk home.

la factura

Our bill came to €36 including coffee – I can definitely envisage coming back here!

Restaurante Marisqueria Pepet is at: Av. Montserrat, 43, 08397 Pineda de Mar

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