I had a dream. A dream of pizzas. And the 92 bus.
It happened a couple of months ago, I awoke one morning from a dream where I was convinced that along the route of the 92 bus there were 92 pizzerias and the goddess of pizzas had called me to try them all. I tell you, the things I do for my readers sometimes astonish me. Okay, I stuck the idea in the back of the deck oven for the last couple of months, but the dream returned, over and over again. So, I acquiesce – the project has started, though I expect it will take some time as I’m not going to head out gobbling up pizza on a daily basis. And, anyone who wants to come along and try some with me… speak up!
Two simple rules that I’ve established, though there were no specific instructions in the dreams and who knows, I may find that I need to go back and revise them, but 1) I’m only trying pizzas at “pizzerias”, or at least places where pizza is a principal part of the menu, otherwise there are (I’m guessing only) far more than 92 spots if I were to include every cafe and minutas place that happens to have a pizza on the menu; and 2) the place has to face onto the route of the 92 – I’m not going to pop up a side street just because there’s one visible from the corner, nor, for example, did I head into the food courts at Retiro Station, Patio Bullrich, nor the Buenos Aires Design Center, though likely they each have somewhere for pizza. Again, we shall see, if I find myself short of 92 pizzerias at the end, I’ll return to these skipped spots and add them in. The dream wasn’t clear.
So, the 92 starts at the Hospital Ferroviario – the “Railway Hospital” – in Retiro. It’s not a hospital for trains, but just simply near to the Retiro Train Station. Now, I started this off on a Saturday and that neighborhood was pretty buttoned up, so I may have to pop back on a weekday to see if, behind one of the shuttered facades, is a pizzeria not in evidence. As it was, the first spot I came across was a few blocks into the route at the side of the Estación Mitre, more commonly referred to as Retiro Station, for the neighborhood.
Given the proximity to the station, not surprisingly, someone had to call themselves Pizzería Mitre, facing onto Av. Ramos Mejia (I”m sure it has an actual address but it’s not in evidence, the place is simply directly to the right of the station as you’re facing it. It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and although pizza, empanadas and sandwiches seem to be the mainstay of the menu, the place is equally jammed with folk sampling parrilla (they have a mixed grill for two for something like 50 pesos, which actually looked pretty good). The clientele are a mix of folk waiting for and coming from trains and buses at the two neighboring stations, but also a sprinkling of locals for Villa 31, a mere couple of steps away (in fact, the side entrance of the restaurant faces into the villa.
The pizza sucks. It’s got a tasteless, white bread-y crust, a mere hint of sauce like a faint blush on the dough, and a waxy layer of semi-melted cheese – although I didn’t see them make it, it seemed like it was probably just sandwich slices. A sprinkling of dried herbs atop provides the only flavor. Not an auspicious start to this 92 part trek.
Surprisingly, though a couple of cafes along the succeeding streets offer some form of pizza, there’s actually not another pizzeria for nearly 2 miles, by which time I was definitely getting hungry. Next stop was along Av. Las Heras at a branch of a local chain…
Here I encountered Piacere at Av. Las Heras 2899, corner of Sanchéz de Bustamante. It’s not a chain I’ve tried before as it always looked a little too… bad. Unfortunately they don’t offer pizza by the slice, but only in three sizes, a 7″ 4-piece individual, plus small and large pies, roughly 12″ and 16″ and sporting 6 or 8 pieces (see here for my discourse on BA pizza sizes). Despite there being almost no one in the place it took the waiter a solid ten minutes to bring me a menu and then he disappeared, I finally got the manager to take my order, grumpily on his part, and then waited another 40 minutes for someone to make a basic mozzarella pizza. Oh, there you have it, a third “rule” – in order to be fair I figure I’m going to just try a plain cheese offering at each place.
There was certainly nothing about this pie that suggested it needed 40 minutes of care – maybe they didn’t have any dough made or something. The only thing that came out of the kitchen in the meantime was some toast for another person who dropped in. The pizza looks pretty, and it’s a nice size. It’s wallowing in cheese, as too many versions here in BA do. The dough wasn’t bad and tastes like it has some parmesan in it. The sauce was canned, not fresh. The cheese, surprisingly, pretty good, and while there’s a lot of it, it wasn’t heart and intestine stopping. The negatives, however, the dusting of oregano on top clearly came after cooking and tasted dry and dusty, but worse, in all components, this was an incredibly salty offering – I’m not sure if it was in the sauce, it mostly seemed like they’d simply salted the pizza. Heavily. I could feel my intracellular tissues having the life sucked out of them. In order to finish off this small pie I had to go through a liter of water and then back at home another liter. I still felt thirsty. Still, at least flavor-wise it was better than the first pie up.
Just over 2% of the way through, only 90 to go.