Casa Marí y Rufo, Barcelona, Spain

Down a small side street along Mercado Santa Caterina in Upper Borne (yes, I made that up), I found this place only because I was taken there by locals who literally had to step into the street, wave and holler at me, to find it the first time. It doesn’t get any more local than this. Don Rufo stands behind the bar, cooking and pouring cañas with a healthy dose of old bartender spice. The first time I went we sat at a table next to the bar and carried on with him all night – our first query about the freshness of the langostinos resulted in Rufo waving at a bar patron and saying “hell, I don’t know, ask that lady – she just brought them in off the boat!” Seared whole on his flattop grill and dressed with salt, olive oil from the cooking, and lemon – limón y sal indeed – just fantastic. The grilled octopus here usually starts with a fight at the table, then ends with a second or third order. Closing out the tab is an iterative process with Rufo asking what we had – and estimating so low we had to adjust our tab up quite a bit. That first visit ended with dueling magic shows from, on one hand, a gentleman from LA who just happens to be the famed cinematographer of the upcoming Batman vs. Superman flic, and my friend Luis on the other. Luis won by all counts with his “Portuguese Magic” bit.

My second visit, though a little less eventful than the three-bottles-of-wine-and-magic-tricks dinner, was so excellent we forgot all about our budding hangovers. We covered much of the same ground – fresh shrimp and octopus two ways – as my earlier visit. It was all just as excellent at lunch, as dinner. The back room service from Rufo’s son was as hilarious as the front room, with plates and curses flying on occasion and food and drink coming fast and delicious. I can’t get enough of this place and hope Don Rufo stays in business for years to come, but never changes.

Address: Casa Marí y Rufo, Carrer de Freixures 11, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

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