Celetto–Argentine Fare with a Tuscan Twist

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If you have been to visit the dead at Recoleta Cemetery, you will probably have been beckoned, cajoled or dragged into one of the many overpriced eateries that skirt its perimeter. This need not be the case.

A short walk west you will find Celetto, a charming and understated Argentine ristorantino with more charm in their coffee biscuits than the tourist traps can manage in a meal. In addition to this four-year-old branch, there are a further three locations dotted throughout the state and two parillas that focus mainly on food from the grill.

Instead of the standard stale bread roll hand grenades offered in other restaurants, each diner here is greeted with a mango bellini and some dainty canapés to kick things off. The mood here is reassuringly intimate with rustic ‘Italian villa’ décor. The burgundy walls are lined with wine bottles, mirrors and understated pieces of art and the ambiance of the candle-lit tables combines with the soft background music ensuring a romantic atmosphere cloaks the dining room.

Whispering silver haired couples make up the majority of the clientele, although the hush will occasionally be broken by the cackling laughter of ladies swapping stories over dessert and a drawn out round of espressos. On Saturday evenings it’s advisable to book ahead as diners will be treated to a crooning by the Frank Sinatra impersonator, as velvet smooth as the house Malbec. The service at Celetto tends to be attentive – the waiters here give the impression that they have been recommending wine since the beginning of time.

The menu offers much appreciated diversity and a Tuscan twist on the regular staples of Argentinean cuisine. Starters include breaded prawns, smoked salmon, papas bravas and bruschetta, which range from $16 to around $40 pesos. Half a dozen different salads, including the recommended honey and Dijon mustard chicken, are on offer between $31 and $47 pesos. A refreshing change are the ingredients— Brie, smoked salmon, prawns and walnuts, instead of the instead of the typically plain tomatoes, cucumber and onions.

Main course options include pink salmon with Caesar salad and potatoes (AR$50), chicken salad with white wine and garlic oil dressing ($40), and pumpkin pudding with steamed vegetables, mushrooms and soy sauce dressing ($33). There is a good selection of nine different pasta dishes for around $40 pesos including ravioli with ricotta and mushrooms and gnocchi with lamb sauce. A memorable seafood dish can be hard to come by in this Buenos Aires, but the tagliatelle mar e monti, prawn and mushroom tagliatelle is an outstanding highlight.

Meat eaters are well-catered for too with rib eye, tenderloin, skirt steak, chuck and pork medallions with barbecue sauce available between AR$38-$49 and all served with side salad and chunky french fries.

Among the dessert choices are sweet crepes, meringue, mousse, elaborate ice cream sundaes and alfajors, sweet Argentine biscuits welded together with jam or caramel. A popular option is the AR$35 four-piece taster: berry crumble and raspberry ice cream, panna cotta, double chocolate mouse and ‘sweet caramel delight,’ beautifully presented and offering enough flavors to last a week. The good news is that the portions are large enough to be comfortably shared, albeit through gritted teeth.

—by George Warren

Celetto's popular outdoor dining area in Tigre

Pte. Uriburu 1274
Barrio Norte/Recoleta
Tel: 4822-4606

• Hours: 8am—1 am
• All major credit cards accepted
• Women 50% off Sun, Mon & Tue from 8 pm (the Palermo and Recoleta/Barrio Norte locations)

Other locations

Lafinur 3275
Tel: 4806-0452

Unicenter Mall
Tel: 4836-2944

Eduardo Costa 2028

Fondo de la Legua 340
San Isidro: