Pizza is a serious business in Buenos Aires
“Today a lot of places make Pizza. We created it…”
Buenos Aires was largely built on huge amounts of European immigration around the turn of the 20th century, with the large majority coming from Italy, not Spain, as many would believe (they came in second). In fact, according to a Yale essay on Argentine Immigration:
“Between 1857 and 1958 the main source of immigrants to Argentina were Italy and Spain accounting for 46 and 33 percent, respectively, of the total. The rest of the immigrants were made up of different nationalities, including French, German, British, and Irish.” This amounted to almost 3 million Italians in that period, most of which arrived in the massive rush between 1880-1916.
The Italians and La Boca
Most of the Italians arrived into the port of La Boca, and they liked it so much, they stayed there. La Boca has since then been the main Italian community in Buenos Aires. In fact, the famous football team that plays here, Boca Juniors, is known affectionately as the “Xeneizes,” which means “the Genoese” (people of Genoa, Italy), in an old Genoese dialect.
What do Italians love to eat? Pizza, pasta and ice cream. All of which, of course, are abundantly available throughout Buenos Aires… some of it, arguably (and controversially), better than back in the homeland. And where better to sample Italian food in Buenos Aires, than in the main Italian community here, La Boca…
The history of Banchero Pizza
Don Agustin Banchero arrived from Genoa to Buenos Aires in 1893, to try his luck in Argentina. He soon became one of the first people to sell Pizza in Buenos Aires, starting a little bakery with his son Juan in calle Olivarria, where the “Fugazza Con Queso” was born! (Fugazza was a Genoese invention of a sauceless pizza topped with caramelized onions, oregano and seasoning. It tastes nicer than it sounds. Banchero added the cheese, and this version is now more widely known as the Fugazzetta).
This was surely one of the defining moments in Argentine culinary history. Pizza is that important here.
Son of a Pizza maker
Agustin’s son, the Don Juan of the Argentine Pizza world (literally, that’s his name, Don Juan Banchero), soon took over the dough mantle from his father, and on 28th March 1932 opened the traditional Pizzeria Banchero here in La Boca, which he ran with his sons Tito and Antonio.
Pizzeria Banchero soon became famous for it’s heavenly slices of pie, and yet more famous after stars like Argentine singer Tita Merello and ‘national-institution’ painter Benito Quinquela Martin began to hang out here on a regular basis.
It is still in the Banchero family, but has since ‘branched out’, adding three other locations, including a branch near the Obelisk on Av. Corrientes 1300.
But what about the Pizza?
Well, the Pizza is great. Deep dish, with loads of gooey mozzarella cheese. Pictured below is a ‘Chica Calabresa’, which is an individual sized Pizza topped with lots of mozzarella, tomato sauce, tomatoes, slices of calabresa sausage (a bit like Argentine chorizo sausage, only a little spicy, and interestingly with a faint hint of aniseed to it) and green olives.
There are also cheaper options if you are with company, for example the Grande Muzzarella, will be more than enough for two people. Throw in a couple of slices of Faina, a chickpea based pie that is eaten on top of a slice of Pizza here in BA, and you are set.
A strangely eerie restaurant
And the restaurant itself…? Always deserted.
It’s true that most of La Boca has a sad, run-down, ghost-town quality to it these days, aside from the small touristy area around Caminito, as a result of there being very little work on offer in this area. Banchero adds to the deserted feeling; it’s like walking into a restaurant in a seaside resort during off season – and you wonder how, or why, they are still open. Maybe it’s because they feel they have a duty to continue the family tradition of providing the highest quality Pizza to the Argentine public. Or, less romantically, maybe the city center branch is where the profits are made, with the La Boca location kept on for authenticity’s sake.
All in all, Banchero is a great place for some top quality Pizza in Buenos Aires.
Location of Banchero Pizzeria
Suarez 396, corner of Av. Almirante Brown, La Boca
[Other branches: Av. Corrientes 1300 (City Center) and Av Pueyrredon 123 (Once)]