A conversation with Graciela Nowenstein co-founder – together with Miguel Santalices – of Eroica Caffè Barcelona, the first permanent space in a big city dedicated to Eroica, its values and its people.
Graciela, how did your “Eroica” adventure begin? Why made you decide to open the first Eroica Caffè in Barcelona?
The adventure actually began with Miguel in the Eroica Caffè in Gaiole. For some time, we had wanted to unite our respective passions for fresh artisanal pasta and cycling. That’s where we started thinking that Eroica deserved a permanent meeting place where all those who believe in the Eroica philosophy and values could get together and share them with others. We wanted to create something that went beyond the simple passion for cycling, a philosophy for life. It didn’t seem so complicated to us: after all, the food stops at Eroica offer local specialties and the best wine in the region, healthy and genuine food that enables cyclists to ride for over 200 km, without resorting to chemistry. This was the inspiration for our cuisine. Obviously, amounts and calories vary, but the core stays the same: a type of nutrition that seeks out authentic ingredients with a low carbon footprint.
We chose Barcelona because it is a European, Mediterranean city that is open to tourism, with a vast array of routes and choices for those who love cycling. It is probably the most Italian of the Spanish cities. In the heart of a wine region, Barcelona is an innovative food city and we are convinced that the greatest innovation in the food industry today is the return to tradition and authenticity. Especially with Italian food, which tended to lose the heart of its traditions when travelling abroad.
What excites you about the project?
Eroica Caffè Barcelona is an innovative, ambitious and complex project. It is a pilot project that paves the way for future Eroica Caffès, in Italy and throughout the world. That is exactly what makes this challenge so fascinating: understanding how to bring the Eroica values everywhere, while preserving its authenticity and adapting each project to the local culture at the same time.
What are the main elements of the ECB project?
L´Eroica was born in a cafe and has now been transformed into a cafe. It’s a return to its roots. Eroica Caffè Barcelona is, first of all, a meeting place that is based on the idea of authenticity, simplicity and transparency. An open kitchen and lots of multifunctional spaces make Eroica Caffè something like an old community centre, where you can have breakfast before going for a ride, lunch in company, challenge friends to a game of table football or relax with an aperitif, a book or take part in an event. I lived in Florence for years and one of my favourite places was the community centre in Fiesole which, other than offering good food at honest prices, has a splendid view over the Tuscan hills. Eroica Caffè Barcelona aims to be a place where people can feel at home and enjoy good food without spending a fortune, in a unique, open and bright space. Even without the Tuscan hills!
Eroica Caffè Barcelona is a meeting place for cyclists - heroic and non – for food lovers and for those who seek a peaceful refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s a meeting place between past, present and future, where tradition and modernity intertwine. Authenticity is key: pasta and pizza dough are prepared in situ and in full view; beer and ice-cream are provided by the best local suppliers; the design respects the soul of this old industrial space that has remained intact for years in the heart of the city. This is exactly what allows urban tribes who do not usually meet to get together, exactly like at Eroica, where a solicitor from London could be cycling next to a boy from Barcelona on his grandfather’s bike and a group of hipsters.
Eroica Caffè also contributes to spreading the idea that cycling in a city like Barcelona, and its surroundings, is not only possible but amazing! For this reason, we organise rides every week.
Not forgetting that just like the community centres long ago, here clients can follow large events such as the Giro, Tour, Vuelta, Paris-Nice and all the other great classics, while savouring a good coffee, a fruit juice, a beer or an excellent lunch.
We recently published an article by Dr Alleva regarding sport’s nutrition. What is your point of view? What will a cyclist find at ECB that is in line with the suggestions of a nutrition expert?
Nowadays, everybody has their own needs, not just cyclists with their various objectives and levels of preparation and training, but also those who follow specific nutritional diets and regimes. Our menu offers a wide choice for vegetarians and vegans, for those who are intollerant or who simply want to avoid gluten, or for those following a fibre-rich diet. Our main aim is to offer non-industrial products, that are insofar as possible local and prepared directly in our kitchen. This gives us more control over the quality of the raw materials and the work processes, limiting additives as much as possible. Transparency and authenticity are our principal values. Then it’s up to our clients.
We offer varied and complete breakfasts, from the traditional brioche with jam, to brunch with eggs, fruit, yogurt and cereals. The brioches are homemade and always fresh, the eggs have minimum carbon footprint and milk and yogurt are locally produced and fresh.
Pizza and focaccia are made using local, stone-milled flour, preserving fibre and minerals that disappear with industrial flour. The long rising process makes the dough light and digestible. Our fresh pasta is kneaded by machines that respect the structure of the dough and only fresh eggs are used. Our ravioli are strictly made by hand to maintain the authentic flavour of the fillings.
Eroica Caffè Barcelona is a stress-free space, because to eat well, you must be completely relaxed!
Which ECB dish should every cyclist try after a ride?
Our plates of fresh pasta and stuffed focaccia are certainly an excellent way to restore yourself after a good cycle. Even better if accompanied by an artisanal beer or a glass of good wine, while watching a stage of the Giro d´Italia. True happiness for body and mind!