LIMA – Bar Cordano still occupies the same corner of the Peruvian capital where it first opened 112 years ago, providing a traditional dining experience that contrasts sharply with the posh and modern restaurants that have elevated Lima to a world-class gastronomic destination.
Customers entering the restaurant’s swinging doors embark on a nostalgic journey to a place virtually unchanged from when Peru’s elite gathered there in times past, from its century-old bar to its granite-top roundtables.
“We haven’t changed anything,” Cordano manager Jacinto Lopez, who jointly runs the establishment along with the other employees, told EFE. “We don’t play music here. We don’t watch television. And we don’t have WiFi either.”
Employees say Bar Cordano was inaugurated in 1905 by a family of Italian immigrants and that its reputation grew over time among Lima residents. The employees became owners of the bar in 1978 and managed to keep it afloat during a devastating economic crisis in the 1980s.
“Of the 19 who took over the restaurant, 15 of us are still alive, but most are now retired and only six of us remain at the bar,” Lopez said. “The oldest is Mr. Aguirre, who has been working almost 46 years at the Cordano.”
The bar/restaurant is located near the presidential palace and across the street from the House of Peruvian Literature educational and cultural center (formerly the Desamparados train station), far from the internationally acclaimed restaurants of Lima’s upscale tourist districts of Miraflores and San Isidro.
Bar Cordano is not listed in the most prestigious culinary guidebooks, but its walls are covered with photographs of the many Peruvian celebrities who have dined there.
They include 2010 Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, fashion photographer Mario Testino, former President Alan Garcia, novelists Alfredo Bryce Echenique and Julio Ramon Ribeyro, poet Martin Adan, Marxist intellectual Jose Carlos Mariategui and painter Victor Humareda.