Pizza, on the other hand, matters. It provokes arguments. It divides families. It excites accountants. Forget Cavaliers and Roundheads or Unionists versus Confederates. Until you've heard two Porteño cab drivers arguing about whether Angelín does a better Napolitana than El Cuartito, you don't know the meaning of the phrase 'irreconcilable differences'. (Those already pining for the dialogue of The Sopranos should come to BA and get in the middle of one of these rows.)
Many of BA's most famous (I won't say 'best' in case any locals are reading) pizza parlours are either on or just off Avenida Corrientes (canned travel writing cliche alert), BA's 'answer to Broadway.' (It has a lot of theatres too.) You can either sit down at a table and order a pie, or wolf down a couple of slices at the counter (`al paso' or 'on the move'). Sounds to you like Naples or Newark, NJ? Italians came here too.
So what if we were to combine the pleasures of -- here comes another one -- 'the street that never sleeps' with the pleasures of pepperoni? Welcome to The Corrientes Pizza Challenge. We devised and road tested it last night. We failed. Let us know if you manage it. (Let your doctor know too, you've probably got a tapeworm.)
We launch our odyssey at El Palacio de la Pizza at the top of Corrientes. My wife and I start cautiously with a wedge of Napolitana apiece, washed down with a glass of Quilmes. Our slice is a thin crust version topped with chunky tomato sauce (secret recipe, goes back centuries, etc) and sliced plum tomatoes. Our two comrades in consumption are less circumspect and go for a couple of slices each, accompanied by a massive tumbler of Moscato, a sweet and sickly fortified red which smells of decomposing fox and tastes like two parts cranberry juice to one part gasoline.
Espinaca y salsa blanca (spinach and white sauce) at Las Cuartetas, one block closer to the Obelisco. This pie is deeper and doughier, a style known as al molde. The calorie count is off the chart; this is tasty, trencherman fare. This time we pair it with the house sidra (cider), a drink that has the same relationship with apples that Sprite does with lemons. It slides down fine and we've now got enough gas in the tank to cross Avenida 9 de Julio, the world's widest and wildest boulevard. We get an empanada to munch en route.
No one got hit by traffic so spirits are high as we hit Banchero, one of the city's oldest and most venerated chains (the original is in La Boca and dates back to 1932). The specialty here is the fugazetta, a thick pie stuffed with cheese and topped with oregano and browned onions. We get a few slices of faina (baked chickpea slice) to help mop up the cheese, of which there is plenty. This is a pizza worth crossing a 20-lane thoroughfare for. We go for the house red, an angry little bastard that needs plenty of soda and ice to calm it down.
Straight-up muzzarella at Guerrín, a theatre district classic complete with 1927 marble counter. The slice comes hot -- you have to jiggle it around in your mouth awhile so as not to burn your tongue. Things take a turn for the surreal at this point when a TV crew appears out of nowhere and asks what we're up to. We get into a bit of a row with them, presuming they'll edit it out later, but no, we end up on their late night slot, talking with our mouths full and waving cutlery.
Tired and emotional, we round off the night at El Cuartito, taking a table this time and ordering a huge spicy pepperoni pie. We don't come close to finishing it, preferring to soak up the atmosphere in this rambunctious old-school cantina, which is brilliantly tricked out with framed posters of boxers, 1950s screen sirens and, of course, footballers.
One of the best evenings I've had in a long time, and now, one of the worst mornings...
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