Valencia Menú Del Día Of The Week: Restaurante Pizcueta, Colón

The ‘Valencia Life’ team continues its search for the best menús del día in Valencia. This week, the marvellous Restaurante Pizcueta. By Eugene Costello 

Restaurante Pizcueta is a temple to the menú del día. We are familiar with the concept of the menú del día. A three-course meal with bread, dessert and a drink hovering around the €10 to €15 mark. Excellent value and one that keeps workers well fed at a great price.

What you probably don’t know, though, is that the menú del día was the brainchild of Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Minister of Information and Tourism in the 1960s under cuddly old Franco.

Arguably the architect of package tourism, he saw the creation of concrete super-hotels along the Costa Brava, Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol that proved so popular with tourists from northern Europe for their one or two weeks per year and dragged Spain firmly into the 20th century.

The menú del día was his way to ensure that the new wave of tourists could eat well and affordably, and it became an ingrained part of Spanish life.

Chance encounter

En route to another restaurant, walking through the Colón neighbourhood, I spotted a long queue of people at Restaurante Pizcueta and tarried, interest piqued. My two colleagues didn’t notice I’d stopped so carried on ahead.

Restaurante Pizcueta
Restaurante Pizcueta: A generous terrace that fills up quickly © PAUL KNOWLES / VALENCIA LIFE

The owner, an attractive, dynamic blonde lady whose small size belied her energy and presence, flew out to say, ”If you wait just a little while, we will have a table.”

I explained my colleagues were up ahead but that I would return to Restaurante Pizcueta. Which we did last week. Reader, it was a superb meal…

World-class tortilla

Our waiter was Ariel, the handsome Argentinian partner of the blonde owner, Paz. A jocular and laid-back chap, he set us straight at ease. After ordering our courses, I spotted a sign in the window proudly saying that their tortilla had won an award for being in the top ten in Spain. Well, I could not resist so ordered a slice, un trozo.   

Good God, it was amazing. It was creamy and succulent, and had a generous helping of onion that elevated it far above the dried-out tortillas that have been sitting all day in some places. This one had clearly just been cooked and means I will forever stop for a slice when passing. So much so that I have had to change my route into town to preserve my waistline. A battle I am constantly losing, but a man’s reach must exceed his grasp. Else, what’s a Heaven for? (Not my words, those of the eminent British Victorian poet Robert Browning…)

Restaurante Pizcueta
Freshly cooked: The four-cheese ravioli first plate © PAUL KNOWLES / VALENCIA LIFE

Homemade food

For starters, photographer Paul opted for freshly made four-cheese ravioli, writer Dani went Caesar salad and I chose crema de esparragos

The ravioli was creamy and cheesy with just al dente homemade pasta. “Superb,” pronounced Paul. Dani said that the Caesar salad was exquisite, with good pepper and parmesan, and a hugely more-ish sauce, while my soup was light and balanced with a curry foam sitting atop. Top marks, Restaurante Pizcueta…

Restaurante Pizcueta
Exquisite: the Caesar salad © PAUL KNOWLES / VALENCIA LIFE

For mains, Paul and I went for a homemade burger without bread, with a cheese and caramelised onion lid and crowned with a trance of foie gras. Incredible, and served up with homemade crunchy fries. Dani said that his boletus and secreto  paella was perfect, good and crunchy, unlike some of those soggy paellas one finds in average places.

Dessert was amazing, all home-made. A blueberry cheesecake, and for me one with dulce de leche, like salted caramel. 

Paz joined us afterwards for a chat.

Local Hero: Paz Corral Olmo

Paz tells us that she opened the restaurant nine years ago after moving to Valencia from her native Galicia. “One eats incredibly well in Galicia and I wanted to bring some of that here.”

All the food is homemade at Restaurante Pizcueta, she tells me, and she likes to oversee every dish despite a frenetic team helping her.

Restaurante Pizcueta
Homemade heaven: The cream of asparagus soup with a delicious hint of curry spice © PAUL KNOWLES / VALENCIA LIFE

Paz would like to open Restaurante Pizcueta evenings Thursday to Saturday as she used to, but she needs a reliable cook. “Me falta un cocinero, I can’t do it myself, I am here from 5am every day and rarely finish before 5pm,” she says.   

Previously, Paz used to work in the fashion industry. “I was a store director, and in 2008 I was working in a multinational when the crisis came. We moved here and the restaurant was available.

“They asked me if I knew anyone to take over. I didn’t but cooking and hospitality were my passions. So when I went home that evening, I spoke to my mother. 

“She said, ‘Why don’t you take it over?’ So I did. In the end, I had to leave the other job, I was working so hard, Monday to Sunday.” 

Paz had noticed that, if she wanted to go out for lunch, she had to spend up to €50 for a good lunch, or she had to sacrifice quality and eat pre-cooked food.

“So I found my niche – high-quality, healthy food, for an affordable price.”

Restaurante Pizcueta found its niche

She says that both workers and business people come to Restaurante Pizcueta, the price range and quality meet both needs, and that is her formula for success.

It is borne out by the fact that there is a permanent line of people waiting to be seated, I point out.

She laughs, and says, “One time, [prime minister] Pedro Sanchez wanted to eat here, but there was a long line. There were six of them wanting to eat.

“I said, you’re going to have to stand in line and wait like the rest of them. The couple who own the jewellers’ next door offered their seats to Sanchez, but I refused, saying your people have to wait in line like everyone else.

“So they left and went elsewhere. Some socialism,” she snorts.

Her tip for getting a table is to come on a Friday: “It’s less busy because people leave the city to go to their second home,” she confides.

She tells me that, in her opinion, Restaurante Pizcueta works so well because of her team: “I surround myself with dedicated people who I trust,” she concludes.

It’s a winning formula…

  • Restaurante Pizcueta, Carrer de Félix Pizcueta, 14, 46004 Valencia; +34 963 94 24 00; delivery available via Glovo

See also:

Valencia Menú Del Día Of The Week: La Masía, Ruzafa

You’re Unlikely To Starve in Valencia

Bar Of The Week: Vidrio Vacío, Ruzafa

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