Roig Robí, 40 years in good shape

Mercè Navarro continues to occupy one table per meal next to the kitchen in the restaurant she founded, which she turned into a benchmark and which continues to be successful with her son Joan Crosas taking over.

Yesterday marked four decades since Mercè Navarro opened Roig Robí (Séneca, 20). She was 47 years old, with six children who were starting to grow up (she had just separated) and a boundless capacity for work. When someone asked her how she would make it in the business if she was not a professional cook (despite the fact that she was a fabulous cook and attended Montse Seguí's courses) she replied that the only thing she knew was that she would do it very well.

It had to be like that to become a benchmark in Barcelona's restaurant industry, where personalities from all disciplines have passed through. And to continue to be, right now, one of the city's eateries with the most influential surnames in the reservations book. Indispensable during the decade of the Olympic city, it has survived in good health, in a gastronomic Barcelona that has been losing
gastronomic Barcelona that was losing such important houses as Reno, Azulete Florián, Finisterre, Neichel and Jean Luc Figueras, among so many others.

I choose the founder's favourite table, next to the kitchen, before she, who lives upstairs, comes down to eat. And I order the tasty rice dish of ‘espardenyes’ and artichokes that has been served since the beginning, when rice dishes were not served in elegant places. But first the cod fritters arrive at the table, light and with an impeccable frying and some peas that Joan Crosas, Mercè Navarro's son, who a few years ago took the reins of the house where he has worked since the first day, has gone to buy at the market de la Concepció market, as he does every morning, on his electric bicycle. And, of course, the oldest desserts on the menu, the coconut ice cream, prepared by Javier Bosque, who joined the restaurant when it was one year old to wash dishes and ended up being in charge of the sweet kitchen and an institution.

Forty years are enough time for countless memories and for a celebration that they want to extend throughout this year with tributes to twelve figures who have been crucial to Roig Robí and to whom they will dedicate a dish every month.
Starting with Mercè Navarro herself, they will continue with Antoni Tàpies - who was a great friend of the family - and with other artists close to the family, such as Mariona Sanahuja; but also with writers, journalists or the suppliers to whom they owe so much, such as Carles and Ramona de la Boqueria - their stop was their embassy to the market. Also Joan, who brings them the best truffles and mushrooms or, in summer, the tomatoes from the garden...

Forty years, insists Joan Crosas, means infinite complicities and a pile of anecdotes. Pointing to the tables outside, which have always been an attraction of this place that was advertised at the entrance as a ‘restaurant with a garden’, he explains that the first salary of his life was earned by picking and shovelling the ground to build that space, which would be the first gardening job of Jardineria Fornt, to whom they will also pay tribute. Joan remembers that the day before the opening, that February, they went to buy leather bow ties at a shop on the Diagonal, put on jeans and white shirts with the bow tie, and went out onto the sand. ‘Little by little we would learn the trade of waiting tables’. In the kitchen, the mother started with housewives who helped her at the cooker. Everything, explain some of her children, who today eat with her, was possible thanks to the magnetism of an entrepreneur who knew how to win over the city and be the best mother.

La Vanguardia
26 febrero 2022
Cristina Jolonch
Photo Cesar Rangel