Buenos Aires is one of the world’s great pizza capitals, at least in the sheer number of pizzerias. You can’t walk a city block without passing a pizza joint, or at least an eatery that serves pizza among other things (those ‘other things’ usually consisting of empanadas, breaded patties called milanesas, and pastas).
Most of the pizza in Buenos Aires is pretty good and that is mostly because it is actually very hard to make a bad pizza. The BBC reported in late 2011 that pizza is overtaking steak as the most popular dish for diners in Argentina.
Authenticity separates a really good pizza joint from the rest. Pizza should be served in the simple style of the Italian peninsular. A thin, wood fire cooked base, adorned with extra virgin olive oil and a rich tomato sauce is the starting point. From there it is simply a matter of adding a couple of high quality, fresh ingredients to make the perfect pizza. No overloading of cheese, not too many toppings, flavored with a little garlic, basil or oregano – basic and delicious.
Standard Argentine pizza has a thicker crust than traditional Italian style pizza and includes more cheese. Visitors who don’t like the pizza in Buenos Aires (and there are quite a few) complain about the cheesiness or the quality of the cheese, which can vary widely between establishments.
The old standby is the classic mozzarella, always topped with at least one olive. Other popular pies are the Neapolitan (with tomatoes and garlic) and the Calabrese, protagonized by chorizo (course meat sausage). Typical extra toppings include red pepper, anchovies, eggs, blue cheese, artichoke hearts and pineapple. The American classic, peperoni doesn’t exist in Argentina.
One Buenos Aires’ original that is sure to bring out one’s inner Diego Maradona is the fugazetta, which includes gooey cheese inside the crust and a generous slathering of caramelized onions and sometimes ham. The downtown pizzeria, Banchero proclaims itself the originator of the fugazza spin-off.
Around Buenos Aires, Genovese style pizza, particularly fugazetta is often accompanied by fainá, a flatbread made with chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt and pepper. Fancier version include Parmesan cheese, rosemary and onion powder. Known as farinata in most of Italy, fainá is designed to be doubled up with the pizza for ‘pizza a caballo,‘ or piggyback pizza.
Argentina’s tiny population of vegetarians love fainá because it’s a healthy way to get some protein with your meal and is yummy enough to eat plain.
Another common accompaniment to pizza in very traditional Buenos Aires pizzerias is moscato,(muscat) a sweet wine. An Argentine classic with which you can’t go wrong is the universal combination, honored in song, ‘moscato-pizza-y-fainá‘.
While opinions on pizza in Argentina run the gamut, try the real thing at traditional Buenos Aires’ pizzerias downtown such as Güerrín, El Cuartito, El Palacio de la Pizza, the aforementioned Banchero, or the standing room only Pirillo in San Telmo. For a new twist on the old, Güerrin recently added vegan pizza to their menu, after protesters descended on the pizza joint on World Vegan Day. There is also a small Buenos Aires chain called Pizza Vegan, that makes their pizza dough with potatoes.
For a traditional Neapolitan style-pie, head to Siamo nel Forno, a Palermo favorite. Those craving New York style pizza-by-the-slice, with toppings such as pepperoni and portabella mushrooms should head to Hell’s Kitchen to try the ‘Obama,’ ‘Jackie Kennedy,’ or the jalapeño-topped ‘Hell’s’ pizza.