At the intersection of Calle de Pelayo and Calle de Fruela where old town Oviedo meets new town, you are greeted the instant you set foot in the ground floor café at La Corte de Pelayo. The clamor inside is lively and staccato; everyone moves in time to the constant percussion of clinking glasses and clanking flatware. Career waiters wearing crisp white shirts tucked into black aprons communicate in shorthand and work in concert to clear tables, make change and assemble trays of coffee, sweets and savories. Their teamwork is so precise you would trust them to land aircraft.
Display cases along the marble-topped wooden bar house trays piled high with a daunting selection of generously portioned pinchos (small sandwiches and bar snacks. A new tray weighted down with thick wedges of tortilla (a thick egg and potato omelet) is handed out from the kitchen and placed on the counter. Each slice waves a flag of pickled pepper on a skewer with Asturian pride. A quintet of aged Iberian hams hangs at the far end of the bar where men stand in pairs and shoot the breeze. La Corte de Pelayo is open 24 hours; it is never too late or too early to order a beer.
With your eye on a slice of that tortilla, you score a seat in the picture window in the corner with a view of the small plaza at the intersection and the lush Parque Campo de San Francisco arcos the street. Your waiter, in syncopated maneuvers, arrives at your table one beat after you sit down, takes your order and turns on his heels. From your window seat you enjoy a minute of voyeurism. Vacationing Spaniards in town for the Semana Santa festivities greet each other with air kisses on each cheek. Girls in new tights twill in spring skirts while their parents socialize. Families pose for pictures with the statue in the center of the plaza. Locals scurry across the intersection to catch city busses.
Your waiter returns balancing a tray with your tortilla trophy, a cup with an espresso shot at the bottom, a pair of sugar packets, a small cookie as a garnish, and a carafe of steamed milk. He finishes your café con leche tableside, swirling the milk, filling your cup and, with three practiced flicks of the wrist, coaxing out a top layer of froth in a way that reminds you of waves stacking sea foam on the Atlantic shoreline. The tab for two pinchos, two coffees and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice? €5 and change.
“¿Está contento?” a passing waiter asks later, making his rounds.
Yes, you are content.