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. 

15 comments on “A Hot Day, a Cold Coke, and Unforgettable Pizza

  1. jwylie39@aol.com says:

    Good piece. Brought back memories of a little bar near the old down-town skid row of Stockton, Calif. where they served beer or coka-cola at just the right temperature that little flecks of ice came to the top with the bubbles. Funny how some things stick in the memory. Thanks. john wylie


  2. Steve Cotton says:

    As always, a classy piece of work. The writing is, as well.

    I often use the term “unforgettable pizza” in reference to all of my Mexican pizza experience. I suspect it may link to a different memory.


  3. John Calypso says:

    My best pizza experiences have not occurred in Mexico – but it ain’t over yet. Nice essay.


  4. But isn’t summer cold in the Southern Hemisphere? I think this must have happened in sweaty winter, ¿no?

    As for cold, cold, Cokes, that reminds me of San Juan. I don’t know about Cokes because I rarely drank them unless there was rum included, but I do know about beer. All over San Juan there are street stands where you can buy a beer. The beer is keep so freaking cold that the vendor usually would thump your can with his finger before handing it over. That was to insure that it was not frozen solid as a stone. If it was frozen solid, he would put it aside and thump another one.

    But even then you often received a beer that was partially frozen. Connoisseurs will tell you that beer is best enjoyed at a lesser temperature. It must be just so. However, if you’re sweaty and parched, a half-frozen beer is a delight.

    Thanks for making me think of that.


  5. Summer in Argentina is December to March. Winter is June to August. Or something close to that.


  6. Peter says:

    Pizza has to be the ultimate food group. The best I ever had was in Italy, of course, called Capricciosa. Here in Vancouver there are a couple of true Neapolitan pizza restaurants that make this pie. Add to that a nicely chilled Pinot Grigio or an ice cold cervesa and you are in heaven.


  7. colm54 says:

    A few years ago when we visited the Asti region of California, somewhere near “Cellar 8” winery we came across a pizzaria which served an original pizza! It was disapointing in that it had a plain thin crust with olive oil and a few herbs and little else! The wine put it to shame!


  8. Kim G says:

    One of these days I have to get to Buenos Aires. It’s a fabulous city from everything I’ve heard. Now I can add your pizza joint to the list of reasons.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we wonder how you’d eat pizza with only a half-set of teeth.


  9. Joana says:

    Thank you for linking to that wonderful website with those fabulous illustrations. I wish I had the talent.


  10. Marc says:

    This sounds like one of those travel experiences that happens when you go alone and with no plan…my favorite way, and the most interesting way, to travel. Great story.


  11. mexicomystic says:

    The best Pizza I ever ate in Mexico was made by my son Mike… But the best pizza I ever ate was in Cicero, Illinois. Someone told me, the Mafia owns this joint and if the pizza aint right the cook will have his legs broken.


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