Denia, Pont Sec and a challenge for pizza

This corner of Spain is the land of coques. Pep Romany enhances these centennial and delicious small pizzas in a tavern with kitchen garden

24-03-2018

Pep Romany, patron chef at Pont Sec in Denia, Spain, in front of the kitchen garden he started two years ago

In my opinion Denia, between Valencia and Alicante, only exists because this is where Quique Dacosta celebrates his extraordinary rituals of food, research and pleasure. Now, and until June, it is a great place to stay – they have only 45000 inhabitants, instead of the 200K of the summer.

If I write these words from Denia, it’s because I’ve once again dined at Dacosta’s, leaving the table with my senses and mind fully pleased. And after the richest cake, the icing was lunch, the next day, in a tavern I discovered by chance, on one of the side streets that the navigator suggested I follow to get to my hotel.

Ana Giner and Pep Romany, two fine people

Ana Giner and Pep Romany, two fine people

Pont Sec, dry bridge, refers to the constantly dry brook below. It’s on the old road connecting Denia with Gandia. Five years ago Pep Romany and his wife Ana Giner took over. Two years ago Pep added a great kitchen garden.

Romany is a self-trained cook. A graduate in Physics, he first worked in IT. In 2003 he followed his passion for ovens, pots and pans and with a business partner he opened his first restaurant. By the look on his face, it’s clear he’s much happier now.

This is a land of fish and red prawns so famous and excellent they’re a match for those from Mazara del Vallo in Sicily. There’s also rice and paella. And more. The owner presents his jewel as a coqueria and so we end up in a world scarcely considered in Italy, and even less so in Naples. Coqueria rhymes with pizzeria. Coques, a Valentian word, cocas in Castilian, are small discs of bread seasoned with a hundred things. Rarely cheese, let alone mozzarella. This makes it very different from pizza, putting aside the size. A few centimetres, instead of many.

But you can’t act as if it didn’t exist. Coques were first mentioned in 1627, so they were born long before, when Naples was Spanish (1504-1707) and didn’t yet belong to the Bourbons (1734-1860). So it’s impossible that some echo of this typical product from the southern Spain hadn’t reached the other side of the Mediterranean Sea and of the kingdom of Spain. For sure, pizza was the one to become popular all around the world, a universal masterpiece, while coques remained a fun regional product. Indeed in Denia we can find both coquerias and pizzerias. Pizza might be a delicious product that made its return to Denia, yet while returning here, it spread all over the planet. There’s only one winner in the long term.

Going beyond a comparison between coques and pizzas, Pont Sec is an extraordinary trattoria with vegetable garden. Worth a visit when going to Quique Dacosta’s. And Pep Romany and Ana Giner are two perfect, fun and passionate hosts. Brilliant wine list, with bottles divided in four levels, depending on the intensity. And each dish has its recommended match, but the choice of white, rosé, sparkling or red wine is up to you.

At Pont Sec, this is how they serve coques, on piece of wood. Here’s a coque with goat cheese, served by Pep Romany, finished with spinach, raisins and pine nuts

At Pont Sec, this is how they serve coques, on piece of wood. Here’s a coque with goat cheese, served by Pep Romany, finished with spinach, raisins and pine nuts

We begin with a surf and turf starter, an extraordinary spring salad. Then mackerel in escabeche; artichokes and tuna belly; Sepia bruta in romesco sauce, with hazelnuts, almonds and red pepper; grilled tuna intestine (very salty, impossible) and excellent tuna tripe; three different coques, six wild herbs, Mallorcan salami, spinach, raisins, pine nuts and goat cheese. And of course a perfect, traditional paella, with chicken, rabbit, liver, pork chops and spring vegetables such as artichokes, broad beans, white beans, peas. Finally, a sweet loquat pie and a Tatin with Kanzi apples. Brilliant.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

 

PONT SEC
Cami vell de Gandia, km 1
03700 DENIA (Spain)
Tel: +34.965781326
E-mail: pontsec@outlook.com
Closed on Monday
Average prices: starters 7/16.50 euros; charcuterie 6/15; coques 3.50, creative 5.50; paellas and rice dishes 12.50/23; grill brace 16/24; dessert 6 euros


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