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Bodega Bartolí opened in 1939 as a little bulk wine shop in Barcelona’s Sants neighborhood. Then everything changed for the bodega some 20 years later when a local client arrived with a stomachache. He asked a young Marina Dolz, who was minding the wine shop with her husband, if she could prepare some soup for him. It was the first dish she cooked there and, since then, Bodega Bartolí has moved far beyond simply being a wine store.

At the time Bodega Bartolí opened, Sants was still an industrial quarter with several factories and thousands of workers. During the 1940s, the bodega sold both bulk wine to the neighbors and factory employees and barreja (a very traditional drink usually made of Muscat wine and anise liquor) to the wheelwrights that happened to pass by everyday, especially during the morning – the alcoholic mix cut the cold and motivated the body to work.

After the episode of the stomachache and her first in-store soup, Marina Dolz wisely began cooking four dishes per day to offer the bodega’s clients, mainly neighborhood workers, during lunchtime. Over the years, the menu grew in size and evolved to include breakfast and tapas, and the kitchen was renovated three times, most recently a year ago.

Since that first soup, Bodega Bartolí has moved far beyond simply being a wine store.

The initial four lunch dishes multiplied to some 15 first and second courses plus desserts. The menu items are never written down, but instead always “sung” out loud to each table by the bodegas servers, a daily mantra of sorts. In addition to the lunch specials, there are tapas, which are available at any time: snails, always at least two types of omelets, cooked pig trotters, patatas bravas and preserved products like cured anchovies, cleaned and served plainly, and sardines marinated in escabeche (vinegar and aromatic herbs, like rosemary and thyme), which are made in-house. Except for the few canned conservas, almost everything served here is prepared on the premises.

Bodega Bartolí is currently managed by Marina’s sons, Albert Bartolí and Viçens Bartolí, who oversee the development of the wide-ranging breakfast and lunch menus, as well as the tapas that are available all day. Both of their wives work as cooks in the kitchen, which is still led by Marina, now in her 80s but as vibrant as ever.

The menu includes daily specials with a strong seasonal personality, though mushrooms are always present. Albert and Viçens have been mushroom hunters since they were five and seven years old, respectively. Almost every weekend the two brothers visit the mountains and forage for mushrooms. Then, they dehydrate them and use them in the different recipes throughout the year, like the robellóns (Lactarius deliciosus or saffron milk cap) with garlic and parsley, the fricandó (beef filet stew) with ceps (porcini) and llenegas (Hygrophorus or gilled mushrooms), and their wonderful scrambled eggs with horns of plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides) and butifarra (traditional Catalan blood sausage).

Another must are their winter soups, like Marina’s curative and tasty caldo made with ham bone stock, chicken and beef, chopped carrots and galets (a Catalan pasta similar in shape to snail shells).

It’s a soup similar to the one that calmed the stomach of that client 60 years ago and changed forever the course of this great family bodega.

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