A Hot Day, a Cold Coke, and Unforgettable Pizza

One hot summer day one year more than a decade ago, around this time of year, I found myself wandering around Buenos Aires, starting the day at the Catedral Metropolitana, followed by coffee and facturas at London City and a stroll through Manzana de las Luces, then over to Monserrat and then on to San Telmo. Strolling along Defensa, or maybe another street to its left or right, I headed back toward the city center. My feet were aching, I was thirsty, tired, and hungry, and I stopped at a pizza joint, only because it was open and promised air conditioning.

Sitting at the counter and leaning behind it were a handful of sweaty old men who had less than a half a full set of teeth among them. I made myself comfortable at a Formica table, ordered a slice of onion pizza and another of a kind I don’t even remember and a Coke, and found an immaculate bathroom which was actually a little too nice for this kind of place. “It’s fugazza,” the old man tells me, “and I’m serving you only one piece now. Finish that, and you can decide if you want more.” Whatever, as long as it’s food, I figure, savoring my cold, colder-than-cold, cold Coke, wondering why we in Mexico never get Cokes as cold as they should be.

It was the most delicious piece of pizza I’ve ever had in my life. And I lingered and had that second piece. No, I did not photograph my food. I didn’t even carry a camera back in those days. I don’t even know the name of that place, and I could probably never find it again, even if my life depended upon it. But I’ll always remember that slice of a midday afternoon for the rest of my life.

And that’s why I’ll never look at sweaty, old men missing teeth sitting in a pizza joint the same way ever again.