2009.Jun.15 Monday · 3 comments

in Restaurants

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

– Jack London, author

Buenos Aires – In the East Village, where I used to live, the late night pizza by the slice places all seem to offer up what they call a “lasagna pizza”. I’ve not seen it anywhere else. It’s a thin crust pizza topped with ground beef and onions sauteed together, dollops of ricotto cheese and the same of good, fresh tomato sauce. It’s not really lasagna, but you get the idea. Now, I’ve always liked ground beef on pizzas, perhaps it’s just a childhood thing since they seem like a true comfort food to me. So that may color my perception of my visit to the next spot on my pizza a la parrilla list….

I was in Palermo for one reason or another the other evening – I’m never quite sure if I’m in the “SoHo” or “Hollywood” section when I get back amongst all those restaurants and shops, probably SoHo. I finished up my errands, was hungry, and decided to make the trek across to “the other side of the tracks”, probably Hollywood, and check out Grappa, El Salvador 5802, 4899-2577. It’s a big, dark wood sort of space, with a long mirrored bar and lots of twinkettes twittering around the hostess station – really, I don’t mean to be offensive, but every waitress in the place was there, seven of them (far more than the place needs, even if it were to be full, which it wasn’t), not one of them more than a whisper over the age of consent, and all chattering at the same time in high-pitch about who they thought was cute, which clubs they’d been to, you know the drill. And ignoring the customers. In fact, I was seated by a gentleman who came from the other side of the room, who glared at the girls (who ignored him), shown to my seat, and then I waited. Eventually one of them peeled off of the group, brought me a menu, and went back to the huddle. And that’s the way the evening went, for everyone. The same gentleman tried, several times, to break the group up and send them to actually provide some service for his customers, to no avail.

Grappa - pizza a la parrilla

That one negative about the place aside, let’s delve into the pizza. The menu lists a good number of selections, though one in particular caught my eye – the bolognesa. Immediate childhood memories started to flood back, I pictured tomato, ground beef, mushrooms (oh wait, I hated mushrooms as a kid, my mom made “spaghetti sauce” without), herbs, spices. Had to have that. And just to get a solid sense of the dough and sauce on its own, the local classic anchoa, nothing but dough, sauce, and a single anchovy strip per slice. Three sizes available – individual, chica, grande – as at most of these places, they can’t seem to tell you a size, just “4, 6, or 8” slices, as if a slice was a standard surface area – it’s not, really, different places vary wildly. But during the brief, lightning bug moment that I had my waitress’ attention, she assured me that if I was hungry, I could handle the mid-size, and therefore be able to get it half and half of two types (not a great deal here, they don’t charge half the amount, but about 2/3, of each type).

The dough, cracker thin as an a la parrilla ought to be. The tomato sauce, fresh, lightly seasoned, no real zip but not bland either. The anchovies, surprisingly meaty, good sized ones, and not overly salty. Turning my attention to the anticipated meat sauce side… brilliant idea, good execution. I only say that because I thought their salsa bolognesa was lacking in a bit of complexity – no mushrooms and just seeming a bit underseasoned in everything but salt, with which it was slightly overseasoned. Not badly, but at the threshhold of acceptable salt level, and it just could have used more herbs and other spices. Still, I wouldn’t say no to having another go at it, and you can bet that the next time I have leftover bolognese sauce I’ll be spreading it on a pizza. How simple of an idea is that, and why didn’t we all think of it before?

Nice selection of wines by the glass and quite a few different beers available by the bottle, plus a full wine list. Prices reasonable – the three sizes roughly run in the low $20s, $30-ish, and high $30s. (Hey, one point, since I’ve gotten a couple of e-mails about this recently – we use the “$” here in Argentina for pesos, pretty much back to the start of the place as a country. If I’m reviewing something here I usually just use $ for a peso price, though sometimes I’ll specify AR$ – if I want to note that it’s in dollars I use US$. I’d gotten a couple of e-mails from people who thought things sounded awfully expensive, but they were assuming that I was talking about dollar prices.)

Oh, a last humorous note – being cut into six pieces, it wasn’t cut down the center, between the two halves – so the middle slices were half and half themselves. During one of my waitress visitations, as I was cutting a slice in the middle in half to separate the two, she murmurred something under her breath about “now there’s eight slices”… you can follow the logic of where my mind went from there (maybe that’s why I got charged more like the grande price overall?).


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Frances June 15, 2009 at 19:17

That is what I have always done with leftover spaghetti sauce – spread it on a pizza! I add a bit of parmesan on top before it goes into the oven.

Evie Abat June 16, 2009 at 09:27

We’ve been to Grappa several times for pizza (our normal Napolitana with extra, extra, kill-all-vampires garlic and rucula slapped on top). It’s pretty good. I like the crust, but something always seems to be lacking. I don’t know what it is, but Morelia seems to have it. Maybe the queso?

dan June 16, 2009 at 19:30

Could be, or the sauce, which as I noted, is a bit more “fresh tomato” style than it is a zippier pizza sauce style, Morelia’s tends to have more spices and herbs.

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