The House of the Flies
Lluís Rodriguez and Elisa Vilaplana founded Can Lluís in 1929. Previously there had been a popular restaurant on the site wich was known locally by the unfortunate name of “The House of the Flies”. The flies were attracted in the summer to the large barrels of fresh cod at its door. From the outset the new propietors served the kind of popular “home cooking” which has been the hallmark of Can Lluís ever since.
“If you want to eat, there’s no bread”
The restaurant did not close during the war despite rationing and food shortages. The difficulty of getting supplies was bad enough but essentials like flour and wine also became very expensive. However, the owners never ceased to provide a good service for their clientele, and if they hadn’t managed to get supplies had no alternative but to share the day’s situation with their customers with the phrase: “If you want to eat there’s no bread”.
The bomb explosion – January 26, 1946
It seemed like a normal day, the restaurant was full, when the police suddenly arrived looking for someone. While they went from table to table the owner followed them holding up a light, a “petromax”, because of the electricity cuts. When they arrived at a table where a couple were eating with their four-year-old daughter, the police suddenly shouted, “identity control”. The woman got up to get her coat, pulled out a hand-grenade and threw it into the middleof the dining-room causing the death of the owner and his son Fernando. Even today the marks of the impact can be seen on the floor of the dining-room and the ceramic plaque above table nº.4 with a text by the famous writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán recalls the tragic event.
In the absence of their father, Lluís Rodríguez Vilaplana and his sister Elisa took charge of the restaurant and initiated a period when the restaurant became very much part of the “Barrio Chino”, thanks to the outward-going and happy disposition of the young owners. The friendship of Lluís with Peret and the gypsy community in the barrio resulted in many fiestas in the restaurant which combined cooking and music. At the same time the passion of the young propietor for the beautiful game led to the footballers of the Barcelona team eating regularly in Can Lluís.
The cuisine of the youngsters
The traditional family cuisine of can Lluís espanded with the involvement of Carmen Abella, wife of Lluís, following the example of the founder Elisa Vilaplana which in turn is continued in our time with Júlia Ferrer at the side of Ferran Rodríguez, the third and present generation of restaurateurs at Can Lluís.
These were years of changes, for the restaurant and for the Catalan people. Ferran took charge of the restaurant at time of increasign protest against the Franco regime. The language recovered more each year and Can Lluís was one of the first restaurants to have its menu in Catalan. Actors and performers, artists and writers, began to frequent the restaurant: the theatre groups “Els joglars” and “Dagoll-Dagom”, the popular entertainers of “La Trinca”, the novelist Terenci Moix and the singer Ovidi Montllor; and those associeated with the “Gauche Divine”, a movement which was opening up Catalonia to the outside world, to Paris and London and New York. Can Lluís became a place for press conferences, the presentation of literary prizes and some of its gatherings were even broadcast live from the restaurant. At this time Can Lluís entered its most celebrated period as the restaurant’s guest book suggest, with its record of the peolple and the stories of those memorable years. And the tradition continues.
“Can Lluís is too small”
The queues of people waiting to eat at Can Lluís were becoming so long that the restaurant needed to be larger. Ferran Rodríguez, Xavier Rodríguez and Ferran Agüir, all together opened another restaurant called “Els Ocellets” (“The Little Birds”) only fifty metres from Can Lluís on the Ronda Sant Pau. It opened under the same joint management and rapidly established itself as one of the best of the quarter known for its innovation within traditional fare, like the design of the restauran itself which makes such a good contrast with Can Lluís. Ferran Agüir went on to open another restaurant on his own account, the Racó de l’Agüir (Agüir’s Corner).
The seventy-fifth anniversary of Can Lluís (1929-2005)
It has been the achievement of three generations of restaurateurs to maintain a familiy ambience in Can Lluís for seventy-five years, in parallel with so many major events in the history of our city. Can lluís has existed all this time for its clients, for all those who have come together to eat at its tables under the posters for cigarettes papers, under the balcony in the upper room, served by its waiters with their braces and old-fashioned aprons; for all those who have come for the pleasure of its dishes and its “kitchen of the market”. And Can Lluís will remain open as long as the warmth of its ovens finds its way into the hearts of all those who want to eat at a good table with a feeling of being “at home”.
Reportage “Viure Cada Día” by Julià Peiró
Stories and facts about the Restaurant Can Lluís explained by Ferran Rodríguez in a agile reportage by Julià Peiró for the program Viure Cada Día (in Catalan).