I've wrote about Pizza L'Avia here before. And there (slightly) before as well. But I still don't feel like I've done the place justice.
So here's a collection of Mario-related tidbits that I need to have documented on this blog.
• Of all of Mario's books ranging from the Voynich Manuscript, Pythagoras, Free Mason Society, as well as a collection of short stories he collected while the Barcelona metro system. I chose the surreal subway adventures figuring it would be easier to read short essays in Castilian rather than trying to decipher an analysis of the Voynich Manuscript.
Upon signing my copy, he asked me what my favorite word was. I froze for a second realizing that I didn't have a favorite word, then I looked around for inspiration and said, “Empanada.” With his massive arm already resting atop the display case, he put his hand on his forehead and began writing a poem about “empanadas” with the most serious resolve I’ve ever seen a human exhibit.
The poem reads:
Desde el Mexicolindo, las fiesteras muchachas, los guacamoles y mas al sur donde el sol cambia con las nubes, las empanadas, un mundo atrasado, que nos recuerda, que hacimos sin hogas, sin cueva, los sobrevivientes, los analfabetos, los olvidados. Luego las aspiraciones de escritor del mundo desarrollado.
Which I can roughly translate to:
Since the beautiful Mexico, the party-loving girls, the guacamole and more to the south where the sun changes with the clouds, the empanadas, a backward world, that remembers us, what we did without homes, without cave, the survivors, the illiterate, the forgotten. Then the writer’s aspirations of the developed world.
• Mario told me that during the 1992 Olympics, then Texas governor George W. Bush ate at his restaurant three days in a row. He said that W always ate a Napolitan-style pizza and would bring his plate to Mario when he was done. Despite the fact that Mario hates W's politics, he was a kind guy. I've told this story to friend who doubt that W would be wondering around the Raval neighborhood in 1992. But dammit. I want to believe.
• If I had to rate the service at Pizza L'Avia, I would give it the best .25 star ever. It's always the same waiter, a man whose name I believe is Gabbi. He's just as tall as Mario's at-least-six-foot-frame, but Gabbi is every bit as lanky as Mario is wide. Even my native-Spanish-speaking friends find it almost impossible to understand a word he says. When you ask for a bottle of cava, he'll bring it to your table, unopened, because at 4.50 a bottle, you have to open it yourself. Then once you have opened it, you're faced with the tough task of flagging down Gabbi to ask for some glasses to drink from.
• Paying the bill at Pizza L'Avia has never been done in less than 20 minutes time. The process normally goes like this:
- Ask Gabbi for the bill.
- Wait 5 minutes
- Go up to the cash register to ask Mario for the bill
- Wait at least 5 minutes
- Finally get Mario's attention
- Wait 6 minutes as he gets distracted by something else
- Tell Mario what you had
- Wait 4 minutes for Mario to confirm this with Gabbi
- Receive your bill and give Mario the money
- Look in awe as Mario pulls out a 8-inch thick wallet from his pants pocket and gives you the change.
- Thank Mario and be on your way
• Mario claims he is responsible for bringing hot dogs and American-style hamburgers to Barcelona.
• On my way out I would normally bullshit with Mario for a few minutes on politics, the neighborhood, and whatever else he wanted to discuss. At the end of each conversation he would thank me then hand me a tin-foil-wrapped alfajor.