Located in the neighborhood of Gracia, La Chitarra is a small, artisanal fresh pasta workshop and store. The shop retains the charm of the vintage oil and soap store that had been open half century ago. Samantha and Antonello wanted to bring the food from his region, Abruzzo, closer to Barcelona. At the same time, adapting it to the local and seasonal produce that they find in the neighboring markets. They are in the process of moving towards an entirely organic production. “Our kids eat mostly organic food, and that’s what we want to offer to our clients,” mentions Antonello. They make fresh pasta, teach courses to kids at school and want to explore the catering business, all while maintaining their values. We spoke to this lovely couple about their concept, their values and future plans.
What brought you to Barcelona?
S: We both studied hospitality and worked in five-star hotels in different countries for several years. Before we moved Spain we were living in London and we had a very good experience with the Hispanic community. That, coupled with the desire to live in a city with a beach, brought us to Barcelona.
Why did you decide to open a fresh pasta workshop? How did you find such special place?
S: Antonello’s grandmother had a restaurant and cooking has been a part of his life since he was a child. When we got to Barcelona, we felt it was the moment to start our own business and began looking for a space. We found this one at a festival in Gracia 10 years ago and we haven’t moved ever since. It was a beautiful oil and soap shop and it had been closed for 45 years. We signed the lease and refurbished everything ourselves. We turned it into a small, artisanal fresh pasta workshop but maintained some original elements of the former store.
What does La Chitarra mean?
A: La Chitarra is a kind of wooden guitar typical of our region in Italy that is used to make pasta. You make the dough by hand and flatten it with the rolling pin. Then you make some strips and place them over the chitarra strings to cut it. There are two kinds of cuts: one square, which is what we call spaghetti alla chitarra and another one that is rectangular, which is the tagliatelle.
What is the concept of La Chitarra?
S: We are a small store and workshop specializing in fresh pasta and its compliments, such as sauces or olive oils. We don’t have cookies or wines, and we have only a few types of cheese. We don’t want to cover the entire Italian cuisine. We like this specialization. We work with very small volumes to guarantee a fresh product. Everything you’ll find here has been made the same day or at the most, the day before.
What kind of products you make in your workshop?
S: We make all kinds of fresh pasta made by semolina and free-range eggs. We are now in the process of changing our entire production to be organic. For the moment we can guarantee that the long and short pasta is organic. We also offer vegan pasta without egg, spelt, spirulina or quinoa pasta. We also make lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, cannelloni, pasta sauces and three deserts: a chocolate one, tiramisu and panna cotta.
What is key when making fresh pasta?
A: Semolina, which is the hard wheat flour, is the basis for making fresh pasta, as well as eggs and water. It is crucial that these three ingredients are top quality. Besides that, we use bronze molds to shape the dough. They make the surface rough and imperfect, which helps the oil or the sauce to coat the entire pasta.
What’s your philosophy with the ingredients you use?
S: We are using organic ingredients such as the eggs or the flour, and we always use seasonal vegetables and local products for the filling of our ravioli. We go regularly to the market and buy what it is available each time. We try to have always the most popular ravioli such as the mozzarella and ham, which kids love, but we don’t have a fixed menu. Everyday there’s something different.
How do you like your neighborhood? How does La Chitarra contribute to the gastronomic scene in your community?
S: We’ve been 10 years in Gracia and we love this neighborhood. We have many costumers who have been loyal to our store from the beginning. Besides selling fresh pasta and some other products, on the weekdays we also offer a takeout lunch menu for people who live or work nearby. We cook the pasta at the moment you order it and it works really well.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your project?
A: The most rewarding thing for me is seeing we’ve created something that is working. The crisis was hard but thanks to our faithful clients we were able to keep the business afloat and keep doing what we like. On the other hand, I love when a client comes back and tells how much he enjoyed one of our pastas. We don’t get direct feedback so often since we are not a restaurant and so we love it when we do.
“La Chitarra is our home and at home our kids eat mostly organic food. That’s what we want to offer to our clients.”
What is your favorite pasta?
A: The simplest possible. I love spaghetti a la chitarra with a little bit of olive oil and cherry tomatoes. I am happy with that or with gnocchi.
S: I love the vegan ravioli, which is filled with peanuts, tofu and grilled vegetables. It is lighter since it doesn’t have eggs or cheese. We also have a pumpkin, fruit mustard and biscuit ravioli that is incredible!
What’s next for La Chitarra?
S: We want to evolve and grow in quality but not necessarily in quantity. We are aware that if we want to maintain our artisanal standards we can’t grow in volume. However, we are developing our organic selection and it’s bigger everyday. La Chitarra is our home and at home our kids eat mostly organic food. That’s what we want to offer to our clients.
Carrer de Joan Blanques 56, 08024 Barcelona