The (Not So) Wild West

2007.Dec.20 Thursday · 0 comments

in Life, Restaurants

“Well they have loved to wander, Their feet they have not restrained.”

– Jeremiah 14:10, Old Testament Bible

El Fortin pizza

Buenos Aires – The reason for the trip out to the west was simple. Pizza pilgrimage. Recommended by several locals as “the” place for a “true porteño pizza experience”. Touted by numerous commenters on places like Guia Oleo as the best “double crust” pizza around, the best fugazetta around, the best faina around, with high marks for food and low… very low… for service and ambiance. The place has even been named a cultural heritage site by the Buenos Aires government. All signs that the pizza was likely to be of dubious quality, the service slapdash at best, the place little more than a neighborhood hangout – but likely to be packed with locals who eat there regularly and wouldn’t think of eating anywhere else. I was not to be disappointed. El Fortín, corner of Avenidas Alvarez Jonte and Lope de Vega, in the western barrio of Monte Castro serves up, well, okay pizza. The fugazetta is actually pretty darned good – packed with lots of cheese, and not the oily crap that’s usually piled on it, it’s actually fairly good quality mozzarella, and lots of it. The pizza, however, topped with a tomato sauce that has so much salt in it you could spread it out and attract deer, which is perhaps only to make up for the bland, doughy crust. The faina, a huge portion, but served icy cold, as if it’s just been pulled from the refrigerator, with a consistency of gummy pudding. The service, a trio of older waiters doing little more than grunting at customers, taking orders, bringing the pizzas (which, for the most part, seem to be pre-made and sitting around, at least on a Sunday afternoon), dropping the bill, and walking away. They’ve mastered the art of ignoring everyone. The place, a mildly dingy white tiled corner pizza shop with rickety tables. Got the picture? It’s El Cuartito all over again… a place that was maybe once really good, or maybe not, but somehow has become legend in local minds. Sorry to those who recommend it highly, but I don’t get it.

As long as I was headed out to the far west, I planned out a bit of a wander to see some of the barrio of Monte Castro, and the neighboring barrio of Versailles as well. The former, a seemingly solid middle class neighborhood, with well kept, small homes, nice gardens, some truly beautiful plazas, and inexpensive shopping. The latter, a weird mix of what appears to be some quite upscale parts bordered by sections that have a dubious look to them in terms of wandering about solo, especially with camera at the ready. Not surprising when I realized that as one reaches the far western part, it’s leading into the barrio of Liniers, which while great for ingredient shopping, does require one to keep a sharp eye about.

barrio map
You can spot Monte Castro and Versailles along the western edge of the city.

Monte Castro map
I realize the convention of north being the top of a map page, or sometimes south, is arbitrary, but here, they’re at random, this one has west at the top… ignore the repeated barrio name, I had to piece this together from four different pages of the mapbook, as the barrio happens to fall at the corner of four of them. My wander outlined in green, with purple dots for my stop at El Fortín, then a bit of gelato later at Sandro, where “everything is natural”, and then some final shopping in Liniers along Suarez.

Monte Castro - Mercado Jonte
The old Mercado Jonte, which is now a supermarket, so has at least kept its purpose about it…

Monte Castro - corner home and garden
Beautifully landscaped gardens seem to abound in the area.

Monte Castro - Plaza Monsenor Fermin Lafitte
Probably the prettiest plaza in the zone, the Plaza Monseñor Fermín Lafitte, planted with lots of palm trees, and lined with wandering little walkways.

Monte Castro - who says tomatoes are pricey?
Tomatoes just aren’t so pricey as everyone makes them out to be… even the non-sale price, on a board on the wall, is $3.50 for 2 kilos.

Monte Castro - along Alvarez Jonte
Artwork of various sorts is everywhere on the streets – these colorful hands decorating the security pilons that surround the local synagogue.

Monte Castro - along Alvarez Jonte
A local rehab hospital gets into the act with artwork posted along its fences surrounding an entire block area.

Monte Castro - electric company
Even the electric company gets with the program, adorning its walls with local artwork.

Versailles - plaza Namuncura
In Versailles, a mid-street plaza with a statue to Ceferino Namuncurá, a mestizo religious student who is venerated in various parts of Argentina, especially Patagonia, and who was recently beatified as saint, a century after his death.

Versailles - Calle Paris
The beautiful tree-lined curved sweep of Calle París.


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