Steak for breakfast!
Kidding, not hungry, no breakfast. Taxi to San Telmo, shopping at the big Sunday market and street fair, finally hungry again. Lunch in San Telmo, right across from the old indoor market, at La Brigada, a parilla (aka steakhouse) frequently recommended in guidebooks like this one, which is really quite accurate. Lots of futbol memorabilia all over the walls, televisions, touristy, but not overrun with tourists like La Cabrera. The steak is allegedly great at La Brigada, but none of us could handle more steak. I was one of several who ordered the scrambled eggs with ham and fries platter, which was enormous and fresh and very good. Was not able to finish. I also tried their empanada, this time with a creamy corn and green onion filling, very good, flavorful, flaky pastry, best empanada this side of Azafran in Mendoza. So La Cabrera worked out pretty well.
By not ordering even a single steak we apparently offended the Parilla Gods, because after eight days of sun, the rains finally came, so we struggled home for some wine/cheese/cured meats. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
And then, dinner at 9pm. We taxied to a far-flung corner of Palermo (actually in Belgrano) to visit Luciana (Amenabar 1202, no website), a neighborhood Italian restaurant recommended by a friend whose sister lives around the corner. We were the first ones there, and by the time we left around 11pm, it was still half-full at best, and no one was from the U.S. I’m confident dinner is usually more well-attended there, because it was (arguably) the best meal of the entire trip (well, aside from O. Fournier). Possibly they are packed by midnight. I am interested that some websites like the one linked above give it mixed marks overall and fairly negative ones for service, because that was not at all our experience.
We had heard from our friend that the waiter, who apparently is always there, yells “hide the eggplants” whenever she walks through the door, so notorious is she among the staff for her love of the baked eggplant. The waiter, Sergio, was indeed there, and he met and possibly exceeded our high expectations: he was attentive, hilarious despite the language barrier (and only occasionally because of it), happy to suggest but also happy to bring us whatever we wanted. He both acts and looks exactly like an Italian restaurant waiter should, like he was the model for those plates and paintings you can buy at World Market or Target of scenes from Italian restaurants. He spoke no English at all, and that was fabulous. Luciana was the anti-Cabrera in many welcome ways.
Sergio aside, the food was also fabulous. I insisted on starting with the calamari despite resistance around the table; sometimes you just can tell a place is going to do a certain dish right. It came sauteed in a lemon garlic onion sauce (as best I could tell), and it was the best calamari I have ever had, and I have had my fair share. Even people who normally refuse to eat calamari were eating it happily, and sopping up the sauce with bread crusts. We also tried the eggplant appetizer: good, but no need to hide the other eggplants from our group.
We all got pasta, my spaghetti carbonara was excellent, I could have gone more exotic but was in the mood for creamy ham sauce. Comfort pasta. The table went through several bottles of wine, I’m not sure we really knew exactly what varietals, we were in Sergio’s capable hands. Everyone was happy. We ordered a single tiramisu for the table. The tiramisu was roughly the size of Rhode Island but less gritty and much tastier. Everyone was very very happy. Even Sergio seemed happy, although I expect he’s like that all the time, he seems like that kind of guy.
Another fine day of eating in the books. Next: food courts and general stores.