“Pizzerias are like mothers: there’s no joking around when talking about which one is the best,” or so an Argentine saying goes.
This is why we at the Indy have decided to take the bullet for you – embarking on a high-cholesterol journey amongst wooden benches, dusty moscato bottles and sauce-stained handwritten menus to finally clear the air about who is making the best pizza out there.
Truth to be told, it has not been an easy job. Despite the fact that around 40% of Argentines have Italian origins (and most of them like to boast about it at every opportunity); and despite the fact that Buenos Aires has a wood-fired oven at almost every street corner, it is hard not to be disappointed with the general quality of the most glorious and esteemed street food specimen.
Forget about the original Neapolitan-born recipe: Argentines do pizza differently from anyone else in the world, and the local versions have been codified in over a century of experimentation. Generally speaking, the kind of pizza you are more likely to find here features spongy and chewy dough, a crisp edge and a profusion of thready mozzarella cheese brimming over the plate.
There are in fact three main variations on the theme: there is the fancy pizza a la piedra, Italian style, featuring super-fine dough and crunchy crust; the traditional molde, or masa alta (thick, tall dough) and the good old compromise, pizza media masa.
Usually a couple of portions of muzza – local jargon for Margherita, the first pizza recipe invented in Naples – are more than enough to fill you up for the rest of the day, given the stiffness of the mass and the quantity of toppings used. You will be able to spot a real porteño by the piece of faina (a thin, unleavened chickpea-flour pancake created in the Italian coastal town of Genova) he puts on top of his muzzarella, while washing it down with a glass of moscato, a sweet and light sparkling dessert wine produced in the region of Mendoza.
Legend says that the last man who tried to sketch out an accurate map of pizza redemption – a journalist, food critic and food anthropologist called Pietro Sorba – ended up adding 8kg to his already robust body. On his tour, he touched base in some 90 different places, selecting 35 of them for his book ‘Pizzerías de Buenos Aires’.
After a hard-core week of original tongue-titillating research, the Indy have narrowed down the selection for you. Here are the places to go, chicos. No joking around.
It might come as surprise, since it is located on Defensa – one of the most touristy streets in Buenos Aires – but of all the many pizzerias tried, Señor Telmo stood out for the impeccable quality of the thin crust on its pizza a la piedra and that of the toppings.
It is a pizza that satisfies the pickiest of Italian palates – the hardest test, indeed – thanks to the almost perfect combination of crispness and chewiness of its dough. Soft, digestible and crunchy crust, its flavour is glorified by the freshness of the toppings. The garden-fresh rocket used for the tried and tested home specialty had just the right amount of bitter aftertaste and brilliance required, while the thick-cut of jamon crudo was something celestial.
Thumbs up for the beer list and the tranquil atmosphere too, essential for the kind of business we are talking about. Founded by two young local entrepreneurs who learned the job from an Italian chef, Señor Telmo has two locations: one in San Telmo and another in San Martin de Los Andes, a small town next to the Andes cordillera.
For more information on Señor Telmo, click here.
There is a reason why anyone you ask for advice on the best pizza in town ends up mentioning Guerrín. If the Italian-style pizza a la piedra has been awarded the gold medal, then the silver one is indisputable prerogative of this uppermost example of the local pizza al molde (thick dough, soft consistence and a profusion of cheese on top)
Ever since the Italian poet Franco Malvezzi founded Guerrín in 1932, the first restaurant on Av. Corrientes has become something of an institution, just like the Obelisk that rises nearby.
A muzzarella portion is undoubtedly what you should go for. The gooey, almost liquid texture of the melted cheese is a trademark, although some delicate palates don’t share the same penchant for its strong garlicky aftertaste.
Despite the fact that the take-away bar gets as crowded as a subte carriage in rush hour and pizzas are taken out of the wood-fired oven at a factory-like rhythm, Guerrín have stuck with their traditional location and have not opened another branch as yet.
People looking for somewhere quieter should definitely opt for the upstairs salon, and perhaps enjoy one of the excellent homemade deserts after such a heart (and stomach) warming pizza experience.
For more information on Guerrín, click here.
Don’t be fooled by the tacky pop-art style furnishings, nor by its location on a rather sketchy-looking stretch of San Martín near Retiro station and the busy shopping street of Florida: Filo can offer you one of the tastiest thin-crust pizzas in town.
Deni De Biaggi, manager of the restaurant and native of Venice, likes to remember with a touch of nostalgia that his restaurant “was selected as the 93rd best restaurant in the world in 1998.” Even though it is not yet clear by whom, it is certainly easy to believe him when finally getting your hands on the crunchy crust that encompasses the sea of fresh, top-quality ingredients. Even the oil on the table tastes like real oil, and can be poured on top of your pizza without fear of spoiling it.
Nothing seems to have been left behind at Filo, a restaurant known for its seafood as well as for its 45-minute business lunch deals: a DJ mixes music from his console at night, gorgeous waitresses accompany customers to their table with a friendly smile, and the selection of liqueurs and after-dinner treats is vast. Homemade desserts like the tiramisu are also precious.
Similarly awesome Italian-style pizzas are served in the nearby Italian-owned chain Piola. They have a more classy taste of furnishings but a similarly good eye for picking the best ingredients.
Also worth mentioning is the recently opened pizzeria Siamo Nel Forno in Palermo, where pizzas are taken from a 450-degree oven after just one and a half minutes. Just like it should be.
For more information on Filo click here.
Argentine pizza is not only al molde or a la piedra. The country known worldwide for having given birth to Maradona and Messi has codified another original style of pizza, relating to the world of football of course.
We are talking about the traditional pizza canchera, a variety pizza that used to be served in stadiums and takes its name from the word cancha, meaning football pitch. Served by street vendors holding big trays of food over their head, it is a traditionally stuffy cheese-less pizza – essentially a thick base heavily topped with tomato sauce that was served cold.
The tradition has of course evolved over the years, and now Angelín, the “inventor of pizzas cancheras”, serves them hot and with mozzarella cheese like anyone else. The crispiness and the taste of Angelín’s pizzas are a tear-jerking emotion, and the toppings too are surprisingly fresh and far better than the highly celebrated (and a bit overrated) Pizzeria El Cuartito (on Tribunales) or Banchero (on Av. Corrientes).
Tucked away on Córdoba near Juan B. Justo is the archetypal pizzeria del barrio: a bare, nude and crude gathering place for old people playing cards, swearing at the screen during football matches and accidentally stepping on one or two cucarachas. All things considered, this is indeed the truest taste of Argentina encountered so far.
For more information on Angelín, click here.
A good compromise between the typically fat pizza al molde and the classic thin-crust one, this family-friendly restaurant offers a precious media masa baked in a wood fired oven.
Defined as such because the dough is a bit thicker than that you can find at the Italian-style pizzerias mentioned above, the crust is equally crunchy and ingredients are fresh.
“The atmosphere is what makes Los Inmortales so special,” marketing manager Luis Correa explains. “The selection of pictures and memorabilia hung on the walls aims at reviving the best of our traditions and also adding a modern twist to it.”
Los Inmortales can be found in Buenos Aires in four different locations. The most famous one, tactically located in front of Guerrin on Av. Corrientes, is still home to a painting of tango legend Carlos Gardel. Painted by artist Carlos Leonetti in 1955, just three yeas after the restaurant opened, the painting became and remains the pizzeria’s emblem.
For more information on Los Inmortales, click here.