Le Cucine Mandarosso is an authentic southern Italian restaurant in Barcelona serving big flavours at bargain prices.
Review: Le Cucine Mandarosso southern Italian restaurant, Sant Pere, Ciutat Vella, Barcelona
Le Cucine Mandarosso – just off Via Laietana, a few metres from the Palau de la Música Catalana – has been open since 2008 and on my ‘to-try’ list for a long time. I keep getting word-of-mouth recommendations, which often include the words ‘authentic’, ‘inexpensive’ and ‘excellent’. That’s a tempting triplet in a city where high prices and food fads often predominate.
I’m happy to report that Le Cucine Mandarosso is worthy of all three adjectives. Dropping in for lunch, the only free table (there are no reservations at midday) was a shared one. It didn’t matter; the crowded arrangement suited the restaurant’s informal, slightly chaotic air anyway, which is certainly authentic based on my memories of living in Italy. The stone-walled space is filled with mismatched vintage furniture. Shelves are packed with Italian liqueurs, dried pastas and other ingredients, all for sale.
There’s no à la carte at lunchtimes, only the menú del día – a bargain at €11. This includes a generous single course, a drink, dessert and coffee (Illy, not some vile Spanish brand). I was having lunch with Priorat wine guide extraordinaire Rachel Ritchie, so we decided to splash out and get a bottle from the list. Wine mark-ups are extraordinarily low and there are some real gems here. I deferred to Rachel’s expertise and she, of course, chose well: a very drinkable Corte Giara Valpolicella Ripasso 2013.
We shared our dishes. A fresh salad with a fist-sized ball of creamy burrata:
Pasta with a deep, rich sauce of tomato, anchovies, capers and olives:
Le Cucine Mandarosso specialises in cakes, which are available to order whole through their website. As part of the set lunch menu we ate a slice of superb blackcurrant crostata, which we both loved, and a plain panna cotta, which I thought was just about OK but Rachel hated (“It smells like cat’s piss” was her memorable phrase). It was fractionally on the sour side, so either order it with a sweet topping like Nutella or choose one of the superior cakes. Disagreements about panna cotta aside, we both enjoyed the meal.
Le Cucine Mandarosso is often described as the best Italian restaurant in Barcelona. I can’t confirm that based on a single lunch but I wouldn’t rule it out either. I will certainly return one evening to try the fuller à la carte menu. The lunchtime set menu is excellent value and understandably popular with local residents and workers. The downsides (no reservations, cramped, limited choice at midday) are more than made up for with ample charm, honesty and simple good food. Voglio tornare presto.
Le Cucine Mandarosso: Carrer de Verdaguer i Callís 4, 08003, Sant Pere, Canta Catarina i la Ribera, Barcelona; Tel. +34 932 69 07 80; Closed Mondays; No reservations at lunchtimes.
If you want Neapolitan-style pizza instead of southern Italian pasta, head to nearby N.A.P.
Looking for high-end Italian cuisine in Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella? Check out Kresios.
Click here to find more recommended restaurants in the area.