Madrid / La Alegria: callos, tortilla and joy
Alegria means joy, a status of cheerfulness not necessarily ephemeral or linked to a specific event. Alegria is a mood, it could be 'ingrained' or generated by an overall perception of wellbeing.
La Alegria, in Madrid, is a small bar/restaurant in Calle Veneras, few meters away from the Royal Palace and the Teatro Real.
There, 'alegria' becomes the gentle smile and manners of Fermin, the senior waiter that will welcome you with an handful of olives, and the overall sense of accomplishment and satisfaction generated by the generous meal.
As always before traveling to a new destination (or to refresh my restaurant atlas), I star my google maps with places suggested by friends, critics and specialized articles.
La Alegria was not in there, probably because of the traditional menu or its oldish look that makes it more like the place where your grandpa would go playing cards with his friends while drinking beer or soda served by a gentleman of his age with white hair.
But in that 'familiar' - it reminded me of same very old bars in Sicily - and geriatric feeling, I felt it could have been the right place. And it was!
I sat on some old dark wooden benches in a small tiled room next to the bar and trusted the quiet recommendations of this seasoned gentleman: tortilla de patatas, bonito con tomate, croqueta con jamon and callos. Everything prepared in a kitchen probably large no more than 3 square meters.
Bonito - a tuna fish served with green and red spices - and croquetas were tasty but not thrilling, but tortilla and callos managed to awake the dormant torero in my Spanish-influenced Sicilian blood!
While the 'almost' made-to-order tortilla, perfectly cooked with its moist texture, is known to most, the callos is a Madrilen specialty made with tripes and a tick sauce of tomato, flour, pimento, chorizo, morcilla and spices... tender, juicy and incredibly tasty...