Sandwich of the Week: Pa amb Tomàquet amb Anxoves

A Barcelona classic from Bar Pinotxo
Juanito Bayen
Colman Andrews

Juanito Bayen

Of the ten bars and food kiosks scattered around the Boqueria market on the Ramblas in Barcelona, none is more celebrated than Bar Pinotxo. A, lively breakfast-and-lunch counter just inside the main market entrance, presided over by Juanito Bayen, an effervescent sprite whose whole face seems implicated when he smiles, Bar Pinotxo serves coffee and the usual breakfast pastries every morning to a constant crush of tourists and locals alike — but what regulars eat (yes, even at nine in the morning) is far more serious fare like scrambled eggs with baby clams, tripe stewed with chickpeas, sausage with white beans, or pa amb tomàquet topped with various kinds of cured meat or fish.

Pa amb tomàquet (pronouced approximately "pom toe-MAH-ket), literally bread with tomato, is a definitive Catalan preparation consisting of nothing more than bread (often grilled or toasted) rubbed with the cut side of a halved tomato, then drizzled with olive oil and dusted with salt. Thus prepared, it becomes the backdrop for thin-sliced ham, salami-like sausages, oil-packed anchovies, smoked herring, and the like. (Catalan schoolchildren typically eat it with a piece of bitter chocolate as an afternoon snack — much better than it sounds.)

At Bar Pinotxo, some regulars like their pa amb tomàquet sandwich style: An elongated French-roll-type roll is split lengthwise, smeared with tomato juice, anointed with oil, layered with plump, glistening Costa Brava anchovy filets, reassembled, and then toasted briefly in a sandwich press. The result is utter simplicity, a wake-up call of crunch and salt and faint sweetness. It even goes surprisingly well with a shot of Bayén's rich, dark coffee — or with a glass of the Cava he will be only too happy to serve you.

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