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Which Way Blows the Pizza Wind

The barrio of Caballito, in the middle of the city of Buenos Aires was created around a small pulpería, or, general store. The store was opened in 1821 by Don Nicolás Vila, at the corner of Av. Rivadavía and Emilio Mitre, and was notable for its tall weathervane topped with a horse, a caballo. As the barrio grew around the area, it became known as the area of the caballito, or small horse.

Over the years, I see from my map, that I’ve popped into four different pizzerias in the barrio, which seems a small number for an area that’s relatively easy for me to get to. So, I set out to remedy that. Past entries have been: the execrable fainazzeta that I had at El Riconcito during my brief flirtation with that pizza derivative – so perhaps not fair to include it as having tried their pizzas; but then I quite liked the fainazzeta at La Posta de Achaval on the same venture. For actual pizzas, I had a quite decent plain mozzarella slice at Maricel during my 92 Bus Pizza Trek, and recently a very good calabresa at San Carlos which showed up on a Google search of best pizzerias in the ‘hood.

One of my regular lunching companions and I met up at Army, Av. Rivadavia 5000, a spot that made the city’s neighbors-voted list of local favorites. Now, it’s not a place I’d have normally tossed on my list, because it’s not a pizzeria. It’s just a local diner that happens to serve pizzas as a small part of its menu. But, it’s on that list, so it gets checked out. We couldn’t resist starting with an order of onion rings, because, well, onion rings. These were some of the best we’ve had in the city – beautifully crunchy battered outsides and sweet, tender onion inside. Plus a generous portion.

Interestingly, they don’t offer some of the common combinations for pizzas that we see around town, but the smoked bacon, mozzarella, and black olive pizza sounded up our alley, so we picked that for half, and the other half tried their fugazzeta. The crust quite good, and cooked well. The sauce on the bacon side, really good, and a decent amount of it. The cheese, good quality and nicely browned, though perhaps a bit more quantity than we prefer, but that’s Argentine style. The bacon we’d have liked cooked a bit more – it was basically warmed, and given that there’s a black olive on every slice, on all of their pizzas, apparently, it seems silly to have mentioned it as part of the combination. The fugazzeta side fared less well, the onions were just clumped here and there, so some bites were all onion and others had none, and they weren’t really cooked well – like the bacon, not much more than heated up as the pizza cooked. We both prefer that if the onions are going to be under the cheese, they be parcooked, though I think both prefer the style where the onions are above the cheese and get a little char on them. Overall, decent. I wouldn’t order the fugazzeta again, but the pizza, and especially that sauce, was really quite good.

The other spot in the neighborhood still on the “neighbors’ favorites” list is Plaza del Carmen, Rivadavia 4502. It’s another non-pizzeria, though at least here, the pizzas take up more of the menu proportionally. Still, with about twenty people eating, I think we were the only ones having pizza. Ordered up a medium pie, half calabresa with slices of rather salty sausage and strips of roasted bell peppers; and the other half bacon and mushroom. Honestly, I don’t get this one as a favorite. Yes, it’s that classic stereotype of Argentine pizza with too much dough and way too much cheese (note the second photo, after removing one slice, the cheese just flowed off the rest of the pizza and filled in the space), and virtually no sauce on it…. But, none of it is good quality. The dough is undercooked and lacking flavor, the sauce is simply lacking, the cheese is really oily and low quality, the sausage and bacon mediocre, and the mushrooms canned. There was really nothing redeeming about this pizza, and we just tried it, pushed the rest aside, paid for it, and left.

Obviously, the list of neighbor voted favorites is not the be all and end all of pizza recommendations. It’s a self-selecting group, not just because it’s the folk who decided to vote, but it’s also the demographic that happen to read La Nacion, an anti-Peronist, centrist paper of record. So, other sources. How about the Google Maps top rated pizzeria in Caballito, Tanti Pizza, Avellaneda 210, coming in at a whole 4.6 points on a 5 point scale? (Equal rating given to Lautaro 186, but it’s only open at night and I haven’t ventured there yet.) It’s a hole-in-the-wall with half a dozen tables, most of their business seems to be takeout. Also, reading their reviews, while they rate highly, virtually all of the recommendations are for either their empanadas or their fugazzeta rellena, a specialty we’ve explored before. In truth, after scrolling through their 81 reviews, not exactly a high number. Then again, hole-in-the-wall of a look that it has, a Google search sort of implies they’re relatively new – the oldest review being only three years old. And, watching people who were eating there and placing orders, I was the only one who ordered pizza. Everyone else had empanadas or one of the daily lunch specials.

Unfortunately, and unusually, the fugazzeta rellena is not available by the portion, but only as a grande, about a 14″ deep dish pie, which I was not about to go for. So, I ordered up a medium, going for half and half of my usual favorite, calabresa, and the putanesca, which I was assured was faithful to that sauce moniker. The pizzero popped out to ask if I wanted cheese on the putanesca side, or just with the sauce – his recommendation, with. I went with that, though, of course, Argentines are cheese-loving folk.

The crust was decent, good flavor reasonably well browned, and, cooked through, something that’s been lacking recently at several pizzerias. The sauce, more than the usual blush, and pretty good. The cheese, over-abundant but good quality. Kind of fell down on the toppings though. The sausage used on the calabresa, was plentiful, and sort of semi chopped underneath the cheese, was kind of just salty, without any real interesting spices, and the overkill of sliced tomatoes across the top was just… overkill. Still, I’d have been fairly happy and could have just gone with a small pizza of just that. Why? Because the putanesca turned out to be nothing more than a single anchovy strip on each slice. There was no chili, no extra garlic, no capers, no more olives than the standard one per slice that’s on every pizza in town. A big yawn, and overall, I kind of wish I’d just ordered empanadas.

Remember back at the beginning of this post when I mentioned El Rinconcito, Goyena 400? I recalled the fainazzeta, which had… not been good. But the website and youtube channel La Mejor Pizzeria, asserts that it’s the best pizza in the barrio, as do a few other local youtubers. The former recommended their “gran rinconcito”, a piled high mix of all sorts of good toppings – bacon, sausage, roasted peppers, sliced tomatoes, palm hearts, and more. No such thing on the menu. Maybe it’s one of those off the menu special items you have to know about to order an entire pie, but it’s definitely not an option for by the slice. Online reviewers wax poetic about their selection of fugazzetas rellenas, and they certainly have more options than the usual pizzeria.

However, while better than the fainazzeta, it’s just not all that great pizza. It’s very classically Argentine – lots of dough and cheese and basically no sauce. Actually, as best I could tell, no sauce, period. The calabresa, one of my go-tos, is just mozzarella and parmesan on dough with some slices of really oily sausage; the white slice has a rather nice chopped and seasone spinach topped with parmesan, but neither red nor white sauce as best I could tell. Which kind of makes the fugazzeta just the exact same other than being double thick dough and having a pile of onions on top. Service was disinterested. On a weekday at lunch only I and one other person ate there, and he didn’t eat pizza. Two people stopped in to pick up pizzas they’d ordered by phone. Pass, all around. Another spot where I just didn’t bother to finsih before paying up and heading out.

Not a great round this time. Two thumbs down, one kind of neutral, and one up. And these are supposed to be the best the barrio has to offer?

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Which Way Blows the Pizza Wind


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