If there’s one thing I can count on in this life, it’s pasta. Seriously. When has a heaping plate of spaghetti and meatballs ever broken your heart? I don’t care that gluten and carbs are now considered passé, they’ve never let me down and I’m pretty sure they don’t plan to anytime soon. But when the weather in Buenos Aires blesses us with searing heat and ever-increasing humidity (do we actually live in a swamp? Asking for a friend), it’s only natural to take a little break from the fideos and nibble on something lighter in order to remain conscious. Which is just another reason why I’m #TeamInvierno – the cooler temperatures mean we can resume our love affair without falling into an extended food coma.
Buenos Aires is a haven for pasta lovers like myself. The legacy of Italian immigration bestowed upon us the sacred gifts of fainá, shouting at everyone even when we’re not angry, and pasta. Unfortunately, many places tend to serve you one of two disaster situations: plain noodles with sauce ladled on top (but not properly mixed or blended, making it bland af) or something that more closely resembles a marinara swimming pool (where you’re stuck searching for the actual noodles among way too much sauce).
Thankfully, however, there are also plenty that know how to do things right, especially when it comes to one of my favorite dishes: Cacio e Pepe. With roots in Roman cuisine, this simple combination of cheese, pepper, and pasta is often passed over in favor of a hearty bolognesa or plain-old tuco. Not on my watch! Do you know how hard it is to actually make cacio e pepe well? You’re like “it has three ingredients, Paige, anyone can do it.” Well, you’re wrong. You can’t mask any mistakes or missteps behind ladles of tomato sauce; the precision of bringing everything together in perfect harmony actually takes a lot of skill, so be quiet.
Because we love you, we’ve rounded up three places in Buenos Aires where you can tuck into a nice, hot plate of cacio e pepe, so you can kick-start the fall season with a belly full of creamy, peppery goodness.
Walk into La Locanda and surrender yourself to the ways of Chef Daniele Pinna. Originally from Sardinia, he’s a big personality with an even bigger appetite. Everything is prepared with the highest quality ingredients and with a true Italian panache that oddly enough, isn’t that easy to find in Buenos Aires. The menu is vast and contains tons of gems – there’s everything from prosciutto di Parma to stuffed rabbit – but the pastas are where the magic happens. And if you’re going to La Locanda for pasta, you’re going to want to get the cacio e pepe, it’s just that simple. The dish is actually finished table-side in a giant, hollowed-out cheese wheel that adds both flavor and flair to the experience. If you’re OK with spoilers, you can see a video of it here, but we can’t claim responsibility for your ruined keyboard once it’s covered in your drool. Buon appetito!
La Locanda | José León Pagano 2697 | $$$$ | Tuesday – Saturday, 8 PM – 12 AM; Friday – Sunday, 12 PM – 4 PM | Instagram
Another spectacular Italian restaurant run by another amazing Italian chef, L’Adesso opened in 2011. Chef Leonardo Fumarola – born and raised in Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot – blends culinary tradition with modern twists, resulting in a menu that showcases both the best ingredients and the most sophisticated technique. The burrata is sublime, the tiramisú ni hablar, but the cacio e pepe is pretty much out of this world. Similar to La Locanda, at L’Adesso the dish is finished at the table with plenty of flourishes to ramp up your appetite. The fresh tonnarelli is melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and tastes even better when paired with a glass of one of the several Italian wines on offer. Tucked away on a quiet stretch of Palermo, L’Adesso is an ideal spot for either a quiet date night or a nice dinner with your parents. The quiet back patio offers a dose of fresh air where you can finish the meal over coffee or limoncello.
CORE Italian Street Food
What to do if you’re jonesin’ for some cacio e pepe but it’s the middle of the work day – or fin de mes and your wallet is feeling just a little emtpy? Get thee to CORE, of course! Located right in Retiro, this Italian eatery is a perfect example of “cheap and cheerful.” Core’s approach is simple: high-quality Italian ingredients served in a quick and convenient way. Choose any of the house-made fresh pastas available – fettuccine, busiata, casarecce, rigatoni, conchiglie, and more – and combine with the sauce of your choice – amatriciana, pomodoro, panna & funghi, pesto – and wait for the magic to happen. Prepared in the moment, it will blow every other sad microcentro lunch out of the water. At Core, the cacio e pepe isn’t made in a giant cheese wheel, but it’s no less authentic, 100 percent Italian. In fact, it might be called “casi pepe” on the menu, but there’s no scrimping or cutting corners on the flavor or final product. It’s the perfect dose of spicy, cheesy, creamy goodness that will warm your heart and fill your belly. Plan ahead and go early to beat the rush, or risk waiting in line outside.