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La Cantina de Don Chico: Argentine pizza is a different kind of pie

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LA CANTINA DE DON CHICHO

96-01 Corona Ave. Corona

592-9825

What's new in Argentina?

Drinking champagne with pizza - a touch of class. And pizza in Argentina is different. It has a fluffier texture, a different topping. It's thicker. There's even a double-decker version.

Our search for pizza ala Argentina led to La Cantina de Don Chico, where Corona Avenue meets Junction Boulevard, a pizzeria and restaurant with pastas and parilla. This little enclave has an Argentinean barber shop and social club. It didn't come as a surprise that the small, triangular restaurant is decked out with sky blue and white tiles, the colors of Argentina's flag. And in Argentina a restaurant is a meeting place where you sit and talk after a meal.

We looked in the display case, scanned the blackboard and perused the menu- something different every day. Last night it was a stew with meatballs and potatoes and peppers. Today it was rigatoni with a special sauce.

My Argentinean connection spoke the language, but Ignacio, our waiter, nephew of "Chico" Perotti, the proprietor, spoke wonderful English.

So she filled in details for me: "Everybody in Argentina has a nickname- - 'Chico,' for instance." And: "They drink wine with seltzer. You order the wine and on request, seltzer is brought to your table, gratis."

We had a sampling for a starter: Empanadas (incredibly good. The pastry was so thin, the filling so bountiful). And we had salad Russ with potato, peas and carrots in mayonnaise the way they make it in Argentina. It's hard to hold back.

And then came the pizza with slices of boiled ham covering their unique crust, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, pimentos and green olives. After baking, it's topped with a fourth-inch thick crust made with chick pea flour, a double-decker I found very good.

Their most popular pizza is fugazza, a thick fluffy crust topped with onions. At the Cantina they make a Roquefort topped pizza and a spinach pizza with an inch-thick layer. And you can request egg pizza or tuna pizza or whatever.

Lidia, Chico's wife from Santiago del Estero in Northern Argentina, does the cooking. She has an Italian heritage and we ordered shrimp ravioli with tomato sauce (or you may have pesto instead of sauce). As they do in Argentina we had braised beef alongside.

My Argentinean connection noted gnocchi on the menu and explained that it's a custom to serve it on the 29th of the month down there. In the old days when people were paid once a month, they chose something economical at the end.

A salad of shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and sliced onions accompanies the main dish (Or you may have french fries.) She had grilled chicken with lemon. Here it's a half bird, boned (even the leg) and charcoal-grilled to perfection.

There are desserts like bread and rice pudding and flan and cheese. But there was a pastry shop, Rio De La Plata, across the way with cafe tables for two, an option for dessert.

This charming bakery stays open until after 8. In the South American way, dulce de leche is included in all the baked items. We chose the mini jelly rolls, macaroons, and meringue that was placed in a basket and brought to the table with an espresso and cappuccino. It was a warm day and one of the windows was open, making it even nicer to enjoy our pastries.

Boxed chocolates, Alsajores, filled with dulce de leche, are tempting and you may want to take some home. I took home Sandwiches de Miga, their specialty. Miga is a long loaf of bread which is sliced super thin after removing the crusts and made into ultra-thin, three-decker sandwiches. They're halved and film-wrapped. "Refrigerated, they keep for days and are eaten for breakfast," explained my Argentinean connection. "And if they get a bit stale, you toast them."

And you, too, have an Argentinean connection where Corona Avenue and Junction Boulevard meet, La Cantina De Don Chicho (pizzeria and restaurant). Rio De La Plata (bakery-pastry shop).

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Small, triangular Argentine pizzeria and Argentine/Italian restaurant. Attractive interior. Fine food. Friendly, English speaking waiter. Wine served with or without seltzer. Tango, samba and Argentine folklore tapes.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Vilamesa Margarita (veal cutlet margarita)...$10.95

Amelones Casenos (homemade cannulones)..$7.50

Half Polio Des Huesado (half chicken on grill)...$10.95

Moquis c/Estofado (gnocchi with stew meat).,$9.50

Ravioles De Camarones (ravioles stuffed with shrimp/served with meat)...$9.50/$11.50

Bife De Chorizo (shell steak)...$14.50

Pollo Relleno c/Papas ala Provensal (stuffed chicken with Spanish potatoes)...$10.95

Pizza De la Casa (special pizza with sliced ham, cheese, peppers & olives/ slice or pie)...$2.25/$16.00

Food: Argentine pizzeria & Argentine/Italian restaurant

Setting: Blue & white tiles

Music: Tapes - Tango, Samba, Argentine folklore

Service: English speaking

Reservations: Six or more

Location: Corner Junction Blvd. & Corona Ave.

Parking: Street

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: Cash only

Children: Accommodated

Takeout: Yes

Off premise catering: No

Private parties: To 20

Noise level: It depends

Smoking: Yes

Handicapped accessible: Yes

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Reader Feedback

Fabian Muniz from Hoy nen Argentina says:
No se si alguien ira a leer esto. Pero, por si acaso mi correo es . Desearia una respuesta. Yo soy amigo de Chicho y de Lidia. Fui cliente de la casa por muchos años y colaborador de Chicho.
Jan. 28, 2014, 1:29 pm

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