C’era una Volta (Once upon a Time) could be the title of an opera in three acts. The first: once upon a time there was a man, the chef and owner of this trattoria, Nicki Spinelli, who left his family and the hotel industry to establish a home appliance business in Italy, Argentina and China. The second act: once upon a time there was a girl, Barcelonan Eugenia Milá, who met this chef. And the final act: over the course of five years, they created this little gem – a home kitchen featuring cuisine from Ligúria, where Nicki is from. Opera is also what you’ll hear in this small but first-rate restaurant, as it is a favourite of Eugenia’s, who visits the Liceu, the Colón and La Scala as much as she possibly can.
The most important ingredient in this recipe is the chef’s culinary prowess, which he picked up in Italy. Mixed in with this are the qualities of an authentic family trattoria, particularly the way they present the aglio e oglio spaghetti, a seemingly simple dish hiding its complexities. They always remove the fried garlic from the plate before serving – a rarity in most Italian eateries.
The pasta is prepared daily it comes in all the usual forms, sometimes filled, and always accompanied by delicious sauces. A couple of standout flavours are the chicory and sausage, and the cuttlefish ink.
The most exemplary starters are the many varieties of carpaccio: try the beef, the mushroom with foie gras shavings, or the bresaola (salt-cured beef) with lemon and pepper. It’s best not to arrive too late: they make everything in small batches and it’s very difficult to arrive on time to try the Vitello tonato, which, according to regulars, is exquisite.
We also recommend trying the civet de jabalí (wild boar stew). The risottos, another of Nicki’s specialties, each feed two. When it comes to desserts, the cannoli siciliano (essentially a fried crepe with ricotta and chocolate) is the standout choice, and their wine menu is full of excellent Italian options. The house wine is an intriguing Priorat garnacha.