With all the talk about the benefits of quinoa, chia seeds, goji berries and similar superfoods, we can’t help but be a little taken aback when Dolors, one of the owners of the restaurant Can Vilaró, explains the benefits of eating cap i pota, a traditional Catalan stew made with calf’s head and leg and chickpeas. According to her, the gelatinous chunks of meat make the skin glow and fight wrinkles. “It works as well as the most expensive collagen facial cream available at stores,” she says with a cheeky smile.
Can Vilaró, a third-generation traditional eatery located in front of Sant Antoni market, pays tribute to offal, cuts of pork, lamb and beef that most Catalan people seem to have turned their backs on these days. The interior is bare-bones, but Dolors, her über-friendly husband Sisco and their hardworking daughters, Aida, Alba and Anna, make regulars and newcomers feel like they are eating at Grandma’s house. And many customers come specifically to eat these endangered and half-forgotten traditional dishes, an integral part of Catalan gastronomic heritage.
The faces of Dolors’s legion of fans, who come to this humble eatery from all over the city and the country, certainly glow with happiness when they have her superb cap i pota, as well as lletons amb mongetes (sweetbreads with baked beans), fetge amb salsa (liver with sauce), tripa amb cigrons (tripe with chickpeas), peus de porc amb bolets (pig’s trotters with wild mushrooms), cervells a la romana (battered lamb brains), callos (beef tripe and pork feet stew) or conill amb herbes (rabbit with herbs) for breakfast or lunch.
For not-so-adventurous eaters, this popular restaurant offers more everyday dishes, such as soup, salads, breaded chicken and pork rib stew, as well as sardines, cod salad, baked cod and squid in sauce for those who prefer fish. There isn’t a set lunch menu but there are daily specials: escudella (a traditional Catalan soup) and carn d’olla (a stew of seasonal vegetables, beef bones and pork sausages) on Mondays; fideus a la cassola (casserole noodles) on Tuesdays; llenties amb xoriç (lentils with chorizo) on Wednesdays; arròs a la cubana (rice with fried egg and tomato sauce) on Thursdays and Fridays; and fricandó (beef fillets with wild mushrooms cooked in a beef broth sauce) on Saturdays. As for drinking, Sant Llorenç d’Hortons (red) and daurat de Gandesa (white) are the house wines.
When asked about Can Vilaró’s future, Dolors stares at the noisy renovations underway at Sant Antoni – like other Barcelona markets dating back to the 19th century, it’s undergoing a major update – and says, “If this market becomes a tourist trap like La Boquería, I don’t think Can Vilaró will last another 100 years, to be honest. Tourists want to eat paella, not offal.” We hope she’s wrong, but in the meantime, we plan to eat as many bowls of cap i pota as we possibly can.