Checkered Pass

2007.Dec.05 Wednesday · 8 comments

in Restaurants

“Oh this is the night, it’s a beautiful night
And we call it bella notte
Look at the skies, they have stars in their eyes
On this lovely bella notte.
Side by side with your loved one,
You’ll find enchantment here.
The night will weave its magic spell,
When the one you love is near!
Oh this is the night, and the heavens are right!
On this lovely bella notte!

Lyrics to Bella Notte from Lady and the Tramp

Buenos Aires – Amongst the cognoscenti, I’ve heard whispers now and again about “the experience” at Guido’s Bar, Repubíica de la India 2843, in Palermo, 4802-2391. While no one ever directly equated it with the experience at La Boca’s Don Carlos, it had the ring of the same sort of setup, but significantly higher class. I have to beg to differ. Actually, I don’t have to beg, this is my blog. I differ.

Guido’s Bar

The ambiance, a cross between Moonstruck and Lady and the Tramp. It’s a moment to moment surprise that no one breaks into song with “That’s Amore”. The red and white checked plastic tablecloths beg for it. The zillion and one movie posters from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, cry out for it. The staff, good looking Italianate boys with long aprons, dark eyes, and casual off-hand manner, the patrón, another Carlos, look as if they’re going to deliver an aria with your plates at any moment. The few tables inside are filled with tourists, the fewer tables outside packed with locals, regulars, chatting away with Carlos and any passerby they might happen to know.

Guido’s Bar - antipasti

The approach – a flat priced menu – 80 pesos at lunch, perhaps the same at dinner, we haven’t returned to check it out, because that’s… pricey for lunch. Not if we were treated to a feast of grand proportion, but we’re not. For a trio of us we receive a half dozen small antipasti plates to share – a cold pasta salad with tuna, corn and mushrooms, rich eggplant caponata, couscous, or another teeny spherical pasta, with some bits of vegetables, a vitello tonnato, cucumbers in a mayonnaise sauce, and mini-triangles of cheese pizza. All good, none exceptional, and combined about equal in volume to two fairly standard sized appetizers. Followed by two medium bowls of pasta to share – a passable garganelli in tomato and basil sauce, and the one highlight of the meal, a delicious bowl of orecchiette in a creamy mushroom sauce tinged with truffle oil. Lesser note – both pastas were pre-covered with grated cheese… a whole lot of it…

Guido’s Bar - garganelli with tomato basil sauceGuido’s Bar - orecchiette with mushrooms

Coffee is offered… for 80 pesos apiece, 240 pesos, we got that…? Do we look like we just fell off the nabo truck? Okay, a plate of a solomillo, a roasted loin of pork, is brought to the table, enough for a few bites apiece. Coffee is again offered. Bluntly, I feel ripped off and share that with my lunching companions. One assents, the other “newbie” to Guido’s, the other seems to feel it was a great experience, but he’s a friend of Carlos’ and has been many times, I sense a bias, or perhaps I’ve just missed something – maybe for some, the atmosphere is the thing.

There is a menu if you request one, from which I gather you can order plates as you please, at equally high Palermo prices. My sense is that whatever this place once was, it has become a spot for separating tourists from their money. I noted none of the regulars/locals crowd ordering food – just wine, beer, coffee… and then wandering away, presumeably to have lunch elsewhere – which is what I think I’ll do in the future. A return to La Boca and Don Carlos seems in order – a near unlimited supply of quite good Italian home cooking at a far more gentle price.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

doctorevie December 6, 2007 at 08:05

Hey – Have you tried Il Due Ladroni in Palermo (Fitz Roy and something, can’t remember, it’s down the street, toward Santa Fe, from Dashi and across one of the studiosi)? They’re only open for dinner, a relatively new place, but great food. You should definitely check it out. Hope you and Henry are well!

Saratica December 6, 2007 at 10:25

There is almost nothing less appetizing – when the food is palatable – than feeling ripped off. If you are going to part me with my money, make sure I don’t know it!!!!! Thank you.

dan December 7, 2007 at 19:03

Evie, consider it added to my list to check out – though I worry about a place that upfront tells you they’re thieves… 😉

Vicki February 27, 2010 at 20:09

Hi Dan. While enjoying the delicious food and conviviality of your Dominican night, a couple of your local guests insisted we try Guido’s. So with several others in the group nodding assent, we ventured there today for a late lunch. I didn’t read your review in advance but was interested enough to look it up when we got back. Must agree that it’s pricey but in all honesty, it was really very good. We had pizza, five ‘antipasti’ plates, two amazing pastas and a selection of three desserts. The primi plates bore absolutely no relation to your photos… they all looked (and tasted) delicious. And the pasta.. we were lucky enough to get the truffle/mushroom orrechietti, which was heaven, plus a pretty stand-up penne in tomato/chicken cream sauce. We enjoyed every mouthful and I gotta tell you, it was a really HUGE meal. They must have heard your criticism of the parmesan overload for it was nowhere to be seen today. And lucky for us there were no (English speaking) tourists, just what appeared to be locals. Because of the price we probably wouldn’t go back and anyway wouldn’t want to risk spoiling a good memory. Having properly cooked pasta was a real treat, in our experience most Italian restaurants in BA’s boil it into oblivion then slap something gloppy on top. Guess it’s to satisfy the Porteno taste buds?

dan February 28, 2010 at 12:29

That’s good to hear – I’ve actually been hearing better things about the place – I think his son, who owned Lucky Luciano around the corner (now changed name to Guido’s as opposed to this place, Guido’s Bar), and also Los Loros, both of which I’ve given very positive reviews to, took over the operation of the place about 6 months back and dad has more or less retired. That could have a lot to do with an improvement in the quality of food – note that this review was more than two years ago. It’s probably time to check it out again. What are they charging now for lunch? My biggest criticism of the place from back then was the price – two years ago, 80 pesos for lunch was simply outrageous (actually, it’s still pretty high), making it one of the most expensive lunches in town outside of the four-star hotels.

Vicki February 28, 2010 at 15:41

You’re right about the price…. hold onto your wallet….. it was 120 each, which also included coffee and a bottle of wine, as it should. But as I said: everything we ate was very good and there was way too much! It sort of evened out with some of the indifferent meals we’ve had this trip. (Present company excepted of course.)

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