JOSÉ ANTONIO ESCARTÍN – CASA ESCARTÍN RESTAURANT, CALATAYUD (ZARAGOZA)
Since 2005, Casa Escartín, in Calatayud, has become a reference of an honest cuisine, based on the best product and its good treatment, linked to the territory, the season and tradition. It is, as much for bilbilitanos as for visitors from Zaragoza, Madrid or Barcelona that plan their route to be able to delight themselves with a seasonal menu or with the letter that each season designs with care José Antonio Escartín.
A native of Oscense, Escartín started working at the age of 14, back in 1977, at Caserío Aragonés, in Huesca, currently Sancho Abarca, and at 16 he already saw that cooking was his vocation and began to train as it was done then: “learning alongside very good people and working hard…”. One of those teachers who marked him was, without a doubt, Fernando Abadía. “I was at the opening of Navas -the first restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in Huesca- in 1980. It was very fortunate to be with Fernando, who, apart from being a personal friend, was a figure, in my opinion, not sufficiently recognized for the importance he had for Aragonese gastronomy”. During the years that Navas was with him, he began to go out to great restaurants to learn from the best.
After a couple of business experiences in Huesca, Escartín went to Zurberoa, in Oiartzun, with Hilario Arbelaiz, also a very influential person for him. “He changed my idea of cooking: short cooking times for vegetables and seafood, natural sauces, care for raw materials, seasonal products, respect for tradition…”. José Antonio sums up his philosophy at the stove from then until now.
“WE MUST IDENTIFY OURSELVES WITH THE ORIGIN AND OFFER OUR MOST EMBLEMATIC PRODUCTS IN OUR ESTABLISHMENTS, HELPING ARAGONESE PRODUCERS AND APPELLATIONS TO GIVE THEM VISIBILITY.
In 1998, a job proposal led him to the Community of Calatayud where, after two professional experiences, he decided, together with his wife, to set up on his own and make his dream come true: “a small restaurant, without a bar, to do what he wanted, always guided by what the customer demands”. This is how, in 2005, Casa Escartín was born, a temple that worships the quality product and the trade. “We make a cuisine in which seasonality, proximity and simplicity rule; very linked to the territory and, above all, traditional, which is what the customer asks us for”. Arbelaiz’s teachings are still very much in force at Casa Escartín: “Once we get a good product, we give it the appropriate treatment, to achieve its ideal point and not to mask its properties”.
Tradition, season, proximity and quality
Traditional breadcrumbs, slow-cooked stews, mushrooms in season, quality fish, grilled meats, succulent rice dishes… and all washed down with a wide range of wines from the PDO Calatayud and an intelligent selection of wines from the rest of the Aragonese appellations. “It is what we dominate, what works, what we are asked for and why diners come from many places”.
Casa Escartín is a family business, opened and consolidated by José Antonio and Marisa Herrero and now joined by their son, Lorenzo, and his wife, Andrea. “Lorenzo trained at the Escuela de Hostelería de San Lorenzo de Huesca and now runs the kitchen, my wife and Andrea are in the dining room and I alternate dining room and kitchen,” says this veteran of the kitchen, who continues to design the menus and menus, as well as choosing and buying the best product. Casa Escartín is a cozy place, decorated in keeping with his culinary style, open every day at noon and on Saturday evenings and where it is advisable to make reservations, especially on weekends.
With the historical perspective that his long career gives him, José Antonio is pleased with the good level that young Aragonese chefs have nowadays. Also the new chefs continue to admire this essential of Aragonese gastronomy, as demonstrated by the Association of Aragonese Chefs rewarding his career in the XIX Contest of Aragonese Cuisine ‘Lorenzo Acín’. At the same time, he believes that there is still a lot to be done to promote Aragonese cuisine outside our borders: “we must identify ourselves with the origin and offer our most emblematic products in our establishments, helping producers and Aragonese denominations to give them visibility”, he believes.