Tag Archives: Italian

Le Cucine Mandarosso: Italian-proof

Those delicacies are for sale - unfortunately the chef isn't.

Those delicacies are for sale – unfortunately the chef isn’t.

Give it a try if… You want to taste the best home-made Italian food you can get at a restaurant in Barcelona.

Steer clear if… You have already been here three nights in a row and are starting to put on weight.

This post is dedicated to those witless outrépreneurs who dare ascribe the sad empty tables at their restaurants to 2012’s cheapest excuse for just about anything: the economic crisis. Are they too busy nurturing their self-serving bias to notice that place just a few steps away, invariably bursting with avid guests and thriving on their swelling wallets? Meet Le Cucine Mandarosso: another one of those few establishments to which this never-ending downturn looks as insignificant as anything with the name Jennifer Lopez on it.

Love at First Bite

In fact, you’d better call in advance to reserve a table at this Italian restaurant if you don’t want to leave your mouth watering. The ambience – typical Born/Ribera brick walls with carefully chosen retro details – is both charming and cozy, which reflects the two-sided culinary style: nothing but traditional Italian dishes (mainly with a southern, Neapolitan touch), but so well executed they turn into sophisticated gems – which justifies the slight premium price. Such an appealing mix that had I found a place like this while I was still living in Italy, I would surely have become a repeat and proudly referring customer.

"Pancia mia, fatti capanna"

“Pancia mia, fatti capanna”

Who Needs Mamma Now

After you sit at one of the cute marble tables, the waiters will bring you a small blackboard to illustrate the menu for that day. Do not skip the delicious antipasti (like the tasty verdurine) nor the gorgeous desserts (including freshly baked pastiera and cannoli), but be aware that pasta rules, with dressings that span from a wonderful tomato and mozzarella sauce to consistenly stunning fish specialties. You can even buy an amazing pasta for your home experiments, coupled with other carefully chosen delicacies. I confess I had to cut down on my visits after a while, since I was embarassed to reserve for the umpteenth time and some waiters were clearly seeing me more often than their significant others. Your turn now.

Le Cucine Mandarosso: Carrer de Verdaguer i Callís, 4 (La Ribera) – BCN +34 932 690 380 – closed: sundays all day (except for the aperitivo in the evening), mondays all day

UPS Perfection Score: 9/10 + wow!

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DelaCrem: Addictive

Eat me

Eat me

Give it a try if… You see ice cream as a poem, and the ice cream master as an artist.

Steer clear if… You are already concerned about next summer’s bikini test.

I am not one of those narrow-minded nationalists who say things like, “Italian ice cream is the best in the world”. All I am saying is that there is no other country in the world where you can eat such good ice cream. Simple as that. Now that the context is clear, let me tell you a secret: never joke with an Italian guy about ice cream (or food in general, for that matter). Like hanging up a sign that goes “Gelateria Italiana” when you are selling an industrial blend of obscure chemicals that mostly taste like sour milk and chewing gum. Luckily there is an (Italian…) ice cream shop in Barcelona where the topic is taken seriously.

Something Well Done

Massimo is clearly a perfectionist. Just see how he has surprisingly chosen to present DelaCrem through a video, coproduced by slowatworks.com.

Doesn’t this say a lot about an ice cream master’s life? The creativity, the loneliness. The routine, the slow pace, the silence. The motivation. The pleasure of something well done. All things that might seem naively outdated in today’s Farggi world, yet each of them is reflected in the ice creams I have found in this neat little shop near Plaça Universitat.

And God said, "Let there be chocolate"

And God said, "Let there be chocolate"

Come to Your Senses

I have quickly grown addicted to this place. One cup led to another as I approved the classics one by one and discovered the innovative flavours – until I started to buy a whole takeaway tub and bang, I was hooked. No wonder: the pistachio is one of the best I have ever eaten. (And I have eaten, like, a lot.) The dark cocoa is simply irresistible. The banana achieves the tough feat of tasting both luscious and healthy. Nossignori, ain’t no one scratching this monkey off my back.

Come, sweetie. We need to talk.

Come, sweetie. We need to talk.

David vs. Goliath

The key of Delacrem’s growing success is that you feel you are eating something real. Something that someone actually made with care, and now feels both proud and honoured to share with you. When I told him I had never eaten such a good gelato in Barcelona, Massimo told me he was inspired by Grom, the supposedly coolest ice cream retailer in Italy. Since then I have had the chance to sample their products, and frankly I think they would have a humbling lesson to learn from DelaCrem instead. Like how to make an ice cream that may not save the world, but is guaranteed to save my day.

Delacrem: C. Enric Granados 15 (Eixample Izquierdo) BCN +34 93 124 665 – official blog

UPS Score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 8+/10 + wow!

Il Vecchio Porto: Authentic

Nice, huh? Wait till you see the pizzaiolo, girls!

Nice, huh? Wait till you see the pizzaiolo, girls!

Give it a try if… You could kill if they brought you another plate of patatas bravas.

Steer clear if… You are a shameless buyer of Casa Taradellas precooked “pizzas”.

Let me say it nice and clear: I don’t just bloody “Like” pizza, I couldn’t live without it. Literally. That’s why I’m always on the hunt for the best one in town – and when I find it, I will promote it enthusiastically as if I were its advertising agency. So here is a true gem in the otherwise wretched neighbourhood of Barceloneta: Il Vecchio Porto (formerly known as Oblò), a 100% genuine Italian pizzeria – that is, my new best friend.

From Good to Great

As much as Italian restaurants in Barcelona are quite disappointing – despite a couple of notable exceptions – it’s not too difficult to find a decent pizza. (If you don’t believe me, try living in Berlin for some time; I guarantee you’ll end up missing Telepizza’s home delivery, which says a lot). In my opinion, though, Il Vecchio Porto’s pizza is in a league of its own – definitely worth trying, even if you don’t live in the area. From the taste, thickness and crispness of the dough to the generous topping, from the cooking point to the quality of cheese, the final result is a feast of subtleties which will delight the most demanding palate (that is, mine).

Cool and yummi

Cool and yummi

To Pizza and Beyond

All of this in a pleasant environment (the place has just been renovated), with typical Italian service – meaning that waiters smile and ask you how you’re doing, instead of grumbling along and throwing dishes on your table as if it were a trash can. There is also a whole menu of Italian dishes, but I have not tried them yet – apart from the delicious “Melanzane alla parmigiana” – because the pizza is just too good to skip (just in case the point had not come across). Buon appetito!

UPS score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 8/10 + wow!

Il Vecchio Porto: Carrer de l’Escar, 10 (Barceloneta), BCN +34 932 21 75 10 – website