loader image

The Real Ones- Juanito

Love for Tradition

Joan Riera is Juanito to his friends, the endearing owner of the Ca n’Alfredo restaurant situated in the heart of Ibiza on Paseo Vara de Rey. It’s renowned as a meeting place and for its great food. It was awarded with the Gold Medal of Ibiza in 2010 and has been a flagship of traditional Ibizan cuisine since 1934. Ca n’Alfredo is about casual chats with friends after lunch, Saturday matança rice and flaó (cheesecake) with the family. It’s a home and a refuge, a place where you stop to say hello to Joan and give him your grandfather or your mother’s regards. He is the maître d’ of the restaurant and his wife, Catalina, is in charge of the kitchen. We’ll be chatting about culinary tradition and passion for a job well done. I suggest you read this interview after eating or be prepared to drool.

I get the feeling that Ibicencan cuisine doesn’t get the hype that Basque, Asturian or Canarian cuisine gets? I’d never heard of sofrit pagès (country sofrito) or greixonera in my life until I came to live here. It is one of the most elaborate and tasty cuisines in Spain, and I’m this is coming from a native of Asturias.
“Without a doubt. In the 70s, Ibiza had a massive influx of tourists and the island became filled with characterless restaurants, with Ibizan cuisine reduced down to just four traditional places. I consider myself a promoter of our culinary traditions and along with the Consell de Ibiza, we managed to create a brand called Sabors d’Eivissa (Flavours of Ibiza) that advocates local cuisine and produce. It really took off, and we have been present at countless food fairs such as Madrid Fusión. I’m proud to say that Ibizan cuisine is in rude health nowadays, with more quality as opposed to quantity on the island.”

 

As your friend and colleague Juan Mari Arzak mentions in the prologue of your book Ca n’Alfredo – History, Memories and Cuisine: “the commitment to human values is more important than the commitment to gastronomy.” Is attention and care just as important as quality cuisine?
“Juan Mari is a great friend of mine and he gave me the best recipe that anyone could give: “No te jubiles ni pa’ Dios”(Don’t retire, not even for God) This is a lifelong passion, and what makes me happiest is that people leave my restaurant with a big smile. It is in meeting a child who came here with his parents and then to see him again when he’s 40 years old with his wife and children sitting at the table. That makes me as proud as a peacock. Cuisine needs a lot of care, but you have to take even more care of your customers and friends.”

In the beginning, Ca n’Alfredo was called “Verner and Gertrudis” and was run by a German couple. It was later run by a German Jewish couple who came to Ibiza fleeing the Nazis. How did it end up in the hands of your father, Josep?
“Yes, the German Jewish couple were very hard-working. My father bought this place from them and they then set up a little hotel on the beach in San Antonio. They were the ones who originally gave the restaurant its name because they had 7 sons, with the eldest called Alfredo. Later I added Ca n’ (House of) and my eldest son is called Alfredo. I tried it later with some of my grandchildren, but they wouldn’t let me.”

What is the house speciality? The dish you have to order, no matter what.
“We make fantastic rice dishes and stews. I’m very proud of our baked fish and typical dishes such as sofrit pagès.”

I am surprised by the number of restaurants I’ve discovered on the island. There is a lot of competition. How do you manage to remain a reference point after so many years?
“It’s very complicated, I’m not going to lie. I think it is based on how much I love my job and a lot of perseverance. When you enjoy what you do and put your heart and soul into it… it can’t go wrong.”

The walls of your restaurant are decorated with photos of your most famous diners. Which person did you like but didn’t know who they were at first?
“Well, I remember a very tall and very nice guy who came to eat with his parents; Ricky Rubio, now he’s a star in the NBA, but when he came here he was just starting to make a name for himself in Barça’s basketball team. I’m a big football fan, but I don’t know anything about basketball. The kid loved our food and wanted to take a photo with the cooks, not the other way around!. Then I found out who he was and I’ve followed his meteoric rise to the top, which I’m most happy about.”

Your wife Catalina is in charge of the kitchen, so who controls the stove at home?
My wife! What I’m very good at is crispy fried eggs cooked at high heat, with some chips and sobrasada… yummy!

Heartbreak Hotel By Silvia Superstar

Heartbreak Hotel lands in Ibiza, hosted by Silvia Superstar!

August 13th to August 16th
CODE: HEARTBREAK

3 days in the purest Tarantino style. Live music, friends, dj’s pool party and many surprises…

book now

Madame Superstar launches a new party concept that will take over the reigns of Romeo’s Motel & Diner over three days. She’ll add her unique twist to proceedings, surrounded by friends, guests, VIP’s and artists, with a whole lotta activities that will keep everyone entertained. Things gonna get crazy like a Tarantino movie, with live music, DJs, pool parties, karaoke, bingo, food tastings and a sackload of surprises that we can’t reveal just yet… trust us, it’s gonna be a blast!

Our hostess with the mostess, famous for touring across the world with her band The Killer Barbies and sharing the stage with Iggy Pop, among others, is also well-known for her work on television and as an entrepreneur, shaking up Madrid’s nightlife over the years with her bars: El Fabuloso, Coconut and Lucky Dragon, and parties such as El Fabuloso Club and El Fabuloso Pool Party in Ibiza. Those familiar with Silvia know that she never disappoints. Come on down, fun guaranteed!

Heartbreak Hotel from the 13th to 16th August 2021. Don’t you dare miss it!

more stories