If you're a tourist in Barcelona, you probably know La Barceloneta best for its beach. Packed, lively and somewhat gaudy, it's the beach that's closest to the Old Town and therefore the one most favoured by foreigners staying in the Gotico and Born neighbourhoods, the same foreigners that flood it in scorched pink droves in July and August.
Lately, Felipe and I have been wandering the interior of the barrio, trying to get the feel of the real neighbourhood, that is, the one that doesn't immediately border the beach. It's a special place that, despite the summer tourist invasion, still retains the feel of a close family...a place where, on hot summer nights, life long residents put folding chairs on the sidewalks immediately outside their front doors to escape their cramped apartments, gossip and take in the sea air.
I've been working on an article about La Barceloneta, which I'll post that here when it comes out, but I'm mindful that the article's brevity doesn't lend itself well to sharing all of the barrio's secrets.
Of these, there are many, but one of my absolute favourites is the bomba and the place that claims to have invented it, La Cova Fumada.
La Cova Fumada (c/ Baluard 56, tel. 93 221 4061) is a neighbourhood place de toda la vida. There's sawdust on the floor, barrels of wine on the wall, a sense of decor worthy of the one room apartment of the most hardened bachelor and an open grease spewing kitchen presided over by grandmothers in floral house dresses. That is to say, it's quite fantastic in its own way, as evidenced by the ever present line of tourists and locals at its door.
La Cova Fumada's famed bombas are a mixture of meat and mashed potato, molded into balls, fried and topped with allioli and hot sauce. Actually, La Cova Fumada offers you everything from the mild Señorita (with a dollop of allioli alone, as pictured above) to the fiery Macho (drenched in hot sauce). Felipe and I could not limit ourselves to sample just one and could have gone through a plateful each had we not just finished a filling meal of La Cova Fumada's inexpensive seafood offerings.
Besides the bombas, the restaurant serves some excellent bacalao (salt cod), respectable sardines and perfectly prepared calamares a la plancha (grilled squid). In fact, of the wide selection of dishes we sampled, only the mussels weren't up to the snuff. To order, check out the menu on the wall or ask the waitress to tell you what's up. You won't pay much for the food and you'll feel like you've lived in the barrio your entire life.