Pizza in The Mouth

2017.Aug.05 Saturday · 0 comments

in Restaurants

I thought it might be interesting to set out and find some decent pizza in La Boca. Really, other than the Caminito, the famed tourist attraction of brightly colored buildings, and a couple of well known restaurants like El Obrero, Il Mattarello, and Don Carlos, and, of course, the Boca Juniors stadium, no one ever talks about La Boca, and certainly not as a place to eat, other than those places. (Technically, it turns out after the fact, the first two places here are over the line into Barracas, not in La Boca, so I really only tried three places within the barrio.)

 

Los Campeones, Av. Montes de Oca 856, La Boca – This place, Los Campeones, comes up far more than any other spot in the ‘hood. And, it’s pretty darned good pizza. I like that they offer both thick and thin crust – we wanted to try both, but you can order either (not necessarily by the piece, because those are prepared in advance, but, if you order a pie on your own).

So here, a slice of provolone, basically the straightforward muzzarella pizza with a modicum of sauce, and a second layer of provolone cheese over it. A fugazzeta, fairly classic, right down to the raw onions – for me, this one is too far in that direction, the onions aren’t even warm, they’re just jammed on top. The best, for me, the anchovy slice, with not only their very good and zippy tomato sauce, but rounds of fresh tomato too. By the slice, prices run from about 30-45 pesos apiece – it’s a far better bargain to order a whole pie, either 6 or 8 piece, but more than we wanted to eat on this massive pizza trying venture, as you’ll see, and, we wanted to try different things.


 

Arsenio, Suárez 1260, La Boca – I’m not sure whether this place is more known for its pizzas, or simply its decor – which consists of wall mounted models of every futbol stadium in Argentina, covering every spare centimeter above the wainscoting. It’s actually kind of fun to just wander in the small space and look at each of them.

Unfortunately, they don’t offer small pizzas here, nor pizzas by the slice, just for the various fugazzas, and being towards the onset of this hellacious trek, we decided to go with just a single piece of the fugazzetta rellena (45 pesos) Probably a good thing, too, because if this was representative of their pizzas, we don’t really want any. Dough that was so underdone it was raw in the middle where it sandwiched a layer of oily cheese and cheap lunchmeat ham, and a topping of more greasy queso with a desultory scattering of onions, and the whole thing basically burnt. Between two of us, we just toyed with it and then pushed it away.


 

Banchero, Av. Almte Brown 1220, La Boca – You can’t really look at La Boca pizzerias and not come here (I tried one of their branches, near Once train station, a few years ago). First off, a story that stretches back to the late 1800s, with Juan Banchero later opening his eponymous place in March of 1932. And, the creator of the fugazzeta, taking the idea of an onion focaccia, or as it’s called here, fugazza, and adding cheese to it. Particularly the rellena version, two layers of dough sandwiching the cheese. An idea that clearly took Argentine pizzerias by storm over the last 85 years, since there’s probably not a single pizzeria in town (Argentine style) that doesn’t have some version of fugazza, fugazza con queso, fugazzeta, or fugazzeta rellena on the menu.

We knew we had to try the fugazzeta, that was a given (45 pesos). Of the selection of other pies on the counter (there’s also a whole menu of them to order at the table, but we wanted to grab, stand, eat, and go), we left it up to the counterman to pick. He proceeded to carefully explain each one in as simplistic terms as possible – I think he thought that our Spanish was too rudimentary to understand. We even got to him explaining the pizza with tomato sauce and those little grey-brown strips were “little fish”, something we might not have encountered on a pizza before, because it’s unique to Argentina. Sometimes I just shake my head at the provincialism of people who aren’t well traveled, what can I say. When I said, anchoas, anchovies, he looked shocked that I knew what they were. In the end, he selected a tomato slice as his favorite, topped with provencal, or garlic and parsley (35 pesos).

The pizza slice, okay, nothing special. The dough was decent, average, maybe a bit too thick for our tastes, and despite being a tomato slice, no tomato sauce on it. None. Just cheese and sliced tomatoes and the provencal. The fugazzeta, honestly, was disappointing. The cheese in it had a weird, chalky, grainy texture, almost like they use some ricotta or something similar and had over-baked it. And the onions taken too far, into the territory of burnt and bitter.


 

El Nuevo Milenio, Wenceslao Villafañe 416, La Boca – Walking into this dim, dingy spot, I knew it was likely to be either a disaster or a truly hidden gem. I was leaning towards the latter – after all, it was roughly 1 in the afternoon, and despite being on the corner of the main drag, there wasn’t another customer in the place. Nor did anyone come in while we were there. The two cooks seemed genuinely shocked to have anyone walk in and want to eat something.

They only offer a few different types of pizza, and even fewer by the slice. It basically came down to plain mozzarella, and a fugazzeta. We could have added a slice of lunchmeat ham to the plain slice, but it didn’t seem worthwhile. And, mixed feelings. The plain slice, meh. Thin, chewy crust, bland, virtually no sauce, and oily mozzarella, barely saved by being well browned. On the other hand, a rather good fugazzeta, with a nice layer of cuartirolo cheese sandwiched between two layers of dough, and well caramelized onions (much more the style I prefer) with a good dusting of parmesan.

The one interesting note – see how mashed flat and smooth the top of it is? They make these the “traditional” way, or it’s what some people have told me is the traditional way (though interestingly, not the way Banchero, the supposed inventors of the dish, do). Essentially they bake it upside down – putting the onions down into a well oiled pizza mold, topping it with a little cheese, and then the two layers of dough with the cheese sandwiched between them. That way the onions really caramelize underneath, and the dough cooks through better, then it’s flipped out and over. I know it’s done in some places, though the only place I’ve actually seen them do it is at Pirilo, in San Telmo, which, bizarrely, though I’ve been a few times, I’ve never written up – coming soon in the next pizza post.

I can’t imagine why this place makes it to the top of anyone’s list for best pizza in the area, or any area, but at least the fugazzeta was decent. 25 and 30 pesos, respectively.


 

Augosto, Av. Almte Brown 888, La Boca – Literally right across the corner from the last place, we didn’t even have to waddle far. Seriously old school here, with a menu that looks like it was printed fifty years ago and has been updated, other than prices, since. Only a couple of their pizza offerings are available as individual pies (plain cheese or ham and cheese), the rest are medium and large pies only. Except, had we been paying attention before ordering instead of after, there are some handwritten signs scattered around the room offering other options. Still, we were here to get a sense of their pizzas and whether they’re worth trying more.

Funny, I think the “individual” pizza is actually smaller than a slice of the large pizza. We ordered a plain cheese (75 pesos), plus a slice of fugazza (10 pesos, or 40 for fugazzeta – that’s some expensive cheese!). First off, great dough. Actually, really great dough. Good tomato sauce, and a decent amount of it for a change. The cheese, a bit average, but not bad. And we liked that instead of a sprinkle of dried herbs across the top, it was a puree of fresh herbs in oil. The fugazza, likewise, pretty darned good. The dough took the honors again, with a nice layer of lightly caramelized onions. I’d come back here and try more. We both would.


 

So, at least for these five that came recommended, hands-down winner for quality is Augosto, though even it doesn’t make it into my highly recommended category. Los Campeones is interesting for the wide variety of pizzas they offer, the two different types of dough, good quality, and very good service. Happy to take other recommendations for better pizza in La Boca, if there are pizzerias you think are better – I want to think that they exist!

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