Banchero Pizzeria

November 30, 2006 by · 11 Comments 

Pizza is a serious business in Buenos Aires

Banchero - Creators of Pizza!?

“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

Banchero Pizzeria, La BocaDon 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.

Pizza in Banchero, La Boca

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

Empty Pizzeria = more Pizza for me!

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)]

Tel: 4301-1406

Buenos Aires – my, haven’t you grown!

November 22, 2006 by · 3 Comments 

Buenos Aires History

For those that have a penchant for the history of this great city, Google has recently announced that the latest release of their ‘Google Earth’ maps program has gone ‘4D’, by adding an interesting choice of new dimension – the past, as noted here in Spanish, and here in English. They have done so by adding old maps of certain cities as ‘layers’ over the satellite maps of the earth, so that you can compare past and present.

Luckily enough, Buenos Aires, Argentina is one of the historical maps included, with a version from 1892 being viewable over the current real-life BA:

Buenos Aires Map in 1892

Check it out by downloading the latest (free) version of Google Earth and installing it. To use this cool feature, go to the Layers panel on the bottom left, expand ‘Featured Content’, and then ‘Rumsey Historical Maps’, and select ‘Buenos Aires 1892’, to see how much the city of Buenos Aires has grown since 1892 – look at all that green space! 🙂

Fans of the history of Buenos Aires would do well to also check out Buenos Aires expat blogger Robert Wright’s excellent website, Line of Sight.

Argentina map

[Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thejourney1972/2663602520/sizes/m/in/photostream/ cc BY 2.0]

Buenos Aires Flashmob Pillow Fight

November 18, 2006 by · 26 Comments 

Lucha de Almohadas!

Pillow Fight in Buenos Aires

Today Parque Tres de Febrero, in front of the Planetario building (Palermo), descended into pure feathery chaos, as Argentina’s 1st ever flash mob event took place – a ‘Lucha de Almohadas’. Basically, a massive outdoor pillow fight between a group of total strangers, arranged over the internet.

There must have been thousands there*, pillows in hand and ready for the fight, and possibly almost as many taking pictures and videos with their cameras. I brought both camera and pillow, and did a little bit of pillow fighting, and a little bit of pillow recording, sometimes simultaneously 🙂

*EDIT: Update – Clarin newspaper on Sunday (whose front page photo of the pillow fight is no way as good as mine above 😉 ), estimated that over 3,000 people attended the pillow fight, with no injuries (although I saw at least one very bloody nose). That’s a lot of pillows!

For those seeking instant gratification…

If this post is too long for you to read it all, and you only want to see one thing, I URGE YOU TO SCROLL DOWN TO THE FINAL YOUTUBE VIDEO (it is the fifth embedded video), which is of a ¨horse¨being ambushed by crazed pillow-wielding maniacs. It is hilarious. Trust me.

For those that would like the full experience, I hope you enjoy my story of the day told in in photos and videos…

Calm before the (feather) storm

Calm before the pillow fight feather storm

Pillow Fights are a dangerous business

Buenos Aires Ambulances

And they need to be closely controlled. With tape.

Buenos Aires Lucha de Almohadas Security

(Does he, to the right, think that pickaxe vs pillow is a fair fight?)

Battle plans are made

Buenos Aires Pillow Fight Battle Plans

Early Skirmishes Occur

Kids pillow fight skirmish Buenos Aires

Kids will be kids…

The old guy in the short video above, kitted out in a karate costume, was trying to take on all 3,000 people singlehandedly, before the event started. Obviously he’d watched one too many Bruce Lee movies. Did you see the one where he killed 9 men with a single swing of his pillow? 🙂

The ‘Guerra de Almohadas’ of Argentina Begins

Guerra de Almohadas Begins

And battle rages on…

Buenos Aires Palermo Pillow Fight rages on

And on…

And oon…

And ooon…

And ooooon…..

Buenos Aires Pillow Fight

Every war has its casualties

Lost Shoe in Pillow Fight

Be they shoe… (this man was pillowed to death. All that remained is shown in that harrowing picture)…

…or horse! The horse above was in the middle of an interview with the media, quite normal really. Do pillow fighters have no manners? (sorry for the bad camera work!)

What goes up…

Feathers go up at Pillow fight

…must come down…

Feathers come down at Buenos Aires pillow fight

Get it? Feathers….down…? OK, bad joke, sorry!

Palermo Park ends in quite a state

As you can see, it all ended in a big old mess. Hundreds of pillows bursting all over the place also played havoc on me and my allergies, but still, it was amazing fun, for me, and the other thousands of people there. It lasted well over an hour, and probably a lot more than that (I gave up and went home, there is only so many unexpected blows to the back of the head a man can take), but I’m guessing it will take Parque Tres de Febrero and the Palermo parks people a lot longer than that to clean up. Sorry guys.

If anyone else that reads this went to the Pillow fight, please post your experiences below in the comments, and feel free to link to your blog with comments and pictures, or YouTube for videos or whatever. And if you link to this post, I of course cordially invite you to ‘trackback’ (sorry for the netgeek blogspeak). Until next time, pillow fans…

Postscript: How the Buenos Aires Pillow Buzz Began

I first noticed the plans for this crazy event in a blog post by Diva, one of my favorite BA bloggers, pointing to the blog that had the idea and organised the whole thing. I knew immediately I had to go, because I like to hit random strangers with pillows, only modern society is not usually so forgiving to such tendencies. However, I thought it was likely to be a small affair with maybe 100 people max turning up. How wrong I was to be!

Soon after I saw that Global Voices Online had posted a link to a post in a well-known blog (outside of the Buenos Aires Blogosphere), Blogher, by Liz Henry, talking about this event, so at this stage it had basically gone ‘international’. What’s more, that blog post drew my attention to the fact that the Buenos Aires City Government blog had posted about the upcoming Pillow Fight too! That’s some real official recognition, and obviously this was going to be bigger than I thought. Another post from Buenos Aires Weekly, yet another great Buenos Aires blog, confirmed the news was spreading fast.

In the thick of the Buenos Aires Pillow Fight

Soon after it actually became real news! Argentine newspapers and Buenos Aires media all over the shop started picking up on the story, in order: 26 Noticias, Clarin Suplemento SI!, Perfil, Clarin newspaper, Infobae, and even the very respectable La Nacion! After 20,000 people had visited her blogspot blog, organizer Marina Ponzi then decided to get a new website, and even started to claim that this was no longer a flash mob event, even though the name of the new site suggests so. All a little confusing, but it didn’t stop the press buzz rolling…

And then, the pillow fight REALLY hit the big time: I posted about it in this blog the other day. That must have driven at least, oooh, one more person to go along 😉

It was interesting for me to watch this internet meme grow in front of my very eyes, as described above, and then be there as the event occurred, so successfully, all starting from one simple idea and a free blogspot blog. And thanks, of course, to Marina for that idea 🙂

Palermo Hippodrome Horse Racing

November 13, 2006 by · 14 Comments 

Palermo Hipodromo Horses Action Shot!

The ‘Hipodromo Argentino’ in Palermo

For fans of horse racing, the ‘Hipodromo Argentino’ (Argentina’s Main Racecourse) is definitely worth a visit. If you are here in mid-November, you may even be able to catch the most important event in the racing calendar, the ‘Gran Premio Nacional’, which is sometimes also known as the ‘Argentine Derby.’

You may expect the Hipodromo to be full of annoying, snooty, better-than-you upper class people, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Just like race meetings in the UK or US, there is a mix of all types of people there, including many families, enjoying the day out in the sun.

The history of Buenos Aires Hippodrome

Palermo Hipodromo winner

This beautiful race track was inaugurated on 7th May 1876, when a horse called Resbaloso took the honors in the first race, watched by 10 thousand people. These days, in addition to this sport being called ‘Turf’ here in Argentina, almost all of the horses have English names, which means it is often fun to hear the racetrack announcer try and fail with the pronunciation.

The main entrance and stand was built in 1908, with a capacity of 2,000, by a French architect named Faure Dujarric, in the usual lovely Art Nouveau style of that period that is seen all through Buenos Aires, especially in Recoleta and along Avenida de Mayo in the city center.

The Hipodromo has been privately owned since 1992. That probably goes some way towards explaining the over-zealous security guards there who will no doubt harass you not to take pictures.

Palermo Hipodromo Argentino - Main Building

Also inside that building are seemingly miles and miles of underground slot machines. There are in fact more than 2000 of these automated money grabbers – and they are more popular than the horses, in fact that part of the Hipodromo is open 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year. It’s one of those places where can’t tell what time of day it is if you lose track of time, or just lose yourself among the miles of slot machines. There is certainly a lot of money in this building, which again may explain the tight security.

The ‘Gran Premio Nacional’ of Argentina

The Argentine equivalent of the Derby is called the Gran Premio Nacional, running on a chosen Saturday every mid-November. It was first run in 1884. The best horses in Argentina compete in the race, for the honor of being the best in a country that has some excellent horses.

Another nice touch you may get to experience at a historic race such as the Gran Premio is the performance of the national anthem before the main race by the Granaderos, the Argentine horseback regiment formed by General San Martin, who is the main Argentine independence hero.

Granaderos playing Argentine National Anthem at Palermo Hipodromo

The Hipodromo – Getting there and getting in

The Hipodromo is not too easily reachable by public transport, but it is definitely doable. You can either get the subway Line D to the Palermo stop, and then walk about 5 blocks along Avenida Intendente Bullrich  (pass ‘Jumbo’ supermarket) until you reach Av. Dorrego, where you will see the Hipodromo across the street and to the left. Or you can get either bus 10, 36, 160 or 166, which all drop you off in that area. But it is probably easiest to get a taxi there and back.

Entrance to the Hipodromo has varying costs, depending on the day you go and the importance of the race. Not very much for what is a very nice, long day out – races usually start around noon and go right the way into the evening. You can check ahead when races are held by calling 4778-2800 (if you speak Spanish) or on www.palermo.com.ar – click ‘Informacion Hipica’ followed by ‘Calendario y Resultados’ for a list of all the race meeting dates, which continue all year round.

Location of the Palermo Hippodrome

Avenida del Libertador 4100, between Avenida Dorrego and Olleros, Palermo

Buenos Aires > Things to do Buildings and Architecture > Palermo Hippodrome

 

Plaza Dorrego

November 7, 2006 by · 22 Comments 

Buenos Aires “Must Do”

San Telmo Outdoor Market

Spending a Sunday in and around Plaza Dorrego is one of the few things that ranks as a ‘must do’ sightseeing attraction for visitors to Buenos Aires. On the seventh day of the week, when the rest of the city is resting, the city closes much of neighboring Defensa street to traffic, and this part of San Telmo explodes into a mass of around 8,000 people, locals and tourists alike. They come to peruse antiques and knick knacks, watch the outdoor tango dancing and other performers, sit for a coffee or beer outside a classic old cafe, or just aimlessly wander around the interesting chaos. This, more or less, is the Plaza Dorrego Sunday market, also known as the Feria de San Telmo.

Some San Telmo History

The Dorrego Bar in San Telmo

Plaza Dorrego is one of the oldest public spaces in the city, dating back to the 18th century, when it was an area reserved for the wagons that brought in produce to Buenos Aires from all over the country. Just before the turn of the 19th century it was turned into a public square. The coffee shops and bars surrounding the Plaza only sprung up in the 1930s, when it became an area for wine, song and dance, as it remains today. Bar Plaza Dorrego is the most famous of these establishments, with its lovely old wooden fixtures and counter, although the former has been etched with graffiti over the years – but then many would say this adds to its charm.

Plaza Dorrego Sunday Market / Feria de San Telmo

Tango Dancers in Plaza Dorrego, San TelmoThe market started in 1970, and it is still going strong with more than 270 stands offering antiques, phonographs, period clothes, jewelery, old books, crafts items and other knickknacks. It is open on Sundays from around 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. While this fair is going on, Argentine tango and folklore singers and dancers, and other performers, put on outdoor shows throughout the day.

If you have no more than a casual interest in tango, then Plaza Dorrego on a Sunday is an excellent time and place to enjoy an introductory sampling of the dance, if you don’t want to go full-out and pay for a proper Tango dinner-show in Buenos Aires. Also, in the late afternoon and early evening, after the stalls begin to pack up, free impromptu outdoor Tango lessons are often given in Plaza Dorrego, which can be quite good fun if you are not ashamed of making a fool of yourself in public.

If you don’t want to get that involved, it is nice just to sit at one of the bars that surround the Plaza and take in the action from there, while partaking of your favorite liquid refreshment.

Antiques Fair

Initially the outdoor market was antiques only. These days, to cater for visitors, all kinds of other knick knacks and local crafts are available in addition to the more expensive antiques. But despite this small change in the outdoor market away from tradition, this area of San Telmo still remains very much the antiques quarter of Buenos Aires.

Odds and ends in Plaza Dorrego Market Stall

San Telmo Indoor Market

Keeping up the antiques theme, nearby to Plaza Dorrego, surrounded by the streets Bolívar, Carlos Calvo, Defensa, and Estados Unidos, is the San Telmo Indoor Market, a massive iron structure built back in 1897, which fills the whole block. Back then it was a produce market, but when the outdoor fair started in 1970, it soon shifted to antiques, and these days it is just as interesting to wander around as the outdoor version. It is also quite poignant to see a few of the food produce stalls holding on to their past trade, side-by-side with the antiques. Some of the smells are not what you would usually expect when looking at such valuable old pieces.

San Telmo market

[Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/denise_mayumi/3216605354/sizes/m/in/photostream/ CC BY 2.0 ]

Defensa Street

The nearby street of Defensa is also full of antique shops, most of which contain items far out of many tourists’ price range. However, they still make for a nice spot of window shopping, looking through the Argentine and European period pictures, 18th and 19th century furniture, jewelry, colonial silver and classic toys. In fact, this area of San Telmo is now considered one of the most important antiques centers in the whole of Latin America. And yet strangely, there seems to be an obsession with selling plain old soda siphons, as pictured below (although actually, they can be quite beautiful when many different colored siphons are all displayed together on one stall).

Soda Siphons in Plaza Dorrego Market Stall

Whether or not you do buy anything, you are still sure to have a great time in and around Plaza Dorrego on a Sunday – a true Buenos Aires experience.

Location of Plaza Dorrego

Corner of Defensa and Humberto Primo, San Telmo

Bull Bar (ex Deep Blue)

November 3, 2006 by · 3 Comments 

Pool Near The River

Booths at Deep Blue Pool Bar, Buenos Aires

(Note: Deep Blue has now been renamed “Bull Bar”)

(But many people still refer to it as Deep Blue, so we still will for most of this article!)

Deep Blue / Bull Bar is a fairly expensive pool bar in the bajo (low) area of Buenos Aires City Center, which basically means the part where the land starts to slope down towards the river. It is an area with a high concentration of bars, and due to this also being the banking/business district, you will generally see a lot of the ‘after office’ crowd about. In any other major city this would probably be a sign of a drunken mess waiting to happen, but in Argentina they are generally not very big drinkers, which is one of the more accurate stereotypes you will hear about the city. Although of course, things can get a bit crazy on Friday and Saturday nights, when these bars become rammed with twenty-something porteños.

High Quality Pool

Pool Tables in Deep Blue BarAs for the bar, Deep Blue is a nice place to go for a few games of pool, a beer or a cocktail (or three), and an American style burger (if you are missing that kind of thing). Although the games of pool are pricey per ficha (a ficha is the token you need for each pool game), the tables are of a higher quality than the rest in town, so you can get down to some serious pool shootin’ action.

One good thing about Buenos Aires, and Argentina in general, is that people are generally friendly and not in the slightest bit shy. So if you fancy a game of doubles, just ask around and you can easily set up a heated “Yanquis vs Porteños” game with a little bit of light-hearted banter thrown in for good measure.

Cocktails vs Beer

Deep Blue is also a nice place for a few cocktails. Men: don’t question your masculinity, ordering up a few colorful concoctions is quite acceptable, and guys at Deep Blue drink them without shame. The beer selection in Argentina is unfortunately sub par by world standards, so it might be a nice reprieve.

If you really must go for the cerveza, Deep Blue has a very interesting, if dangerous, twist on draft beer. You can sit at a table WITH YOUR OWN BEER TAP. Here you can keep on refilling yourself to your heart’s content, just don’t get so drunk that you lose track and end up with what will be a very expensive tab. Maybe you are better off sticking with the cocktails.

And if you don’t feel like anything alcoholic at all, Deep Blue also has a range of delicious milkshakes, many featuring, oddly enough, floating Oreo cookies. These also come in alcoholic varieties for the really adventurous, but these may leave you feeling a little queasy later that night and into the next day, as you can probably deduce from the line-up in the below photo!

Cocktails and Milkshakes at Deep Blue

Location of Deep Blue Bar (now renamed Bull Bar)

Reconquista 920, between Paraguay & Marcelo T de Alvear, City Center
[Other branches: Alicia Moreau de Justo 1130, Puerto Madero]

Tel: 4312-3377, Website: http://www.barbull.com.ar/

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