Sunday, 3 June 2007

Restaurants in Vilanova: El Genito - the local state-of-the-art

A good restaurant tells a story. It brings you into a certain mood, gives you an insight into a new culture, makes you feel that you are at home or, the opposite, that what you are experiencing is exclusive and unique. El Genito tells the story about Vilanova i la Geltrú. It is a place for those in our town who want to see and be seen. At the same time, it brings to the table the riches of a culinarily spoiled region.

Yesterday evening I was driving home from the outskirts of Barcelona. I was content with the day but tired and therefore quite grumpy about the congested traffic which is a recurring Friday problem on all exits from the metropolitan area. By mistake, I ended up on the national road N-340, but this turned out to be fortunate. The further away I came from Barcelona the more picturesque was the landscape. The sun had just started to set when I made the final miles to Vilafranca del Penedès, the heart of Catalonia’s white wine region. On both sides of the road, lines of grapevine were stretching over the rolling landscape. I promised myself to soon bring my family here to share the sight with them.

The low mountains which separate Vilafranca from Vilanova form a borderline between two different kinds of scenery. On the northern side you have a lush fertile agricultural landscape. When you reach the other side, in Vilanova, the weather conditions are much harsher. Here, we have got used to living with the strong wind from the sea and the big amounts of sand it sends into the town. Foodwise, however, this side is equally blessed. What can not be achieved by farming is more than compensated for by the fishery.

Driving through the region certainly got in the mood for the dinner which my wife and I had planned for El Genito for the eveing. I knew that we would be offered food specialties from the varied landscape which I had just observed from the car. As always at El Genito, the waiters presented us with two menues. The smaller one, per picar, contains the tapes – the different kinds of iberic hams, sausages and cheeses which you also find in the delicatessen counter. In the other one, per menjar, you find combined dishes for a full meal. As the simple table decorations reveal, this is a place for informal dining and you are free to mix and match between the menues.

We started with some glasses of cava in the bar and then continued with some of the day’s special recommendations. When the tallarines de Vilanova, which we thought would be pasta tossed with mussles turned out to only be mussels, I first felt a bit sorry for my wife who is usually not too fond of that. However, we both found these small, triangleshaped mussels cooked in garlic totally delicious. We also had fine potato sticks topped with a fried egg and an aubergine baked with goat cheese. All the dishes were traditional and local, with a glass of red wine as the only exception.

El Genito offers classic main courses as well, but if you stay with tapes and the specials, this place is a bargain. Our check totalled less than € 45. Reservations are absolutely needed since the restaurant fills up already in the low season. One way to get a table is to start dinner early. The delicatessen store is open already in the afternoon and you can continue from cold tapes to warm food once the kitchen opens. If you do not manage to get a table, you will be allowed to have your food in the bar, but do not count on this option, since even that area tends to be crowded.

Why do we not eat here more often? Well, to be honest, we have simply got so accustomed to international and fusion cuisine that we can not fully appreciate a homely fare, in spite of all the fresh ingredients and the genuinity of the recepies. Having said that, no other place tops El Genito's atmosphere so we will at least pass by for a glass of local cava before we go to other restaurants.

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