Is your bank account looking a little low these days? Well, considering Argentina’s current economic crisis, the answer is probably yes for most. But why blame it on the government or failed economic policies when you could turn to good, old-fashioned, pasta-based superstition for a boost?
Here’s where the gnocchi, or ñoqui, come into play. For those of you who haven’t tried it, gnocchi is a pasta that’s pressed and rolled into little pillow-like dumplings. It’s an Italian dish traditionally made with potato and flour, although they can also be prepared with ricotta or include additions like spinach, pumpkin, or sweet potato. Creative cocineros around Buenos Aires have even gone on to make gnocchi filled with ham and cheese, which isn’t surprising considering Argentina has found a way to put ham and cheese on literally everything.
Superstition dictates that if you eat gnocchi on the 29th of the month and slip some money under your plate while you do so, carrying that money with you after the meal is said to bring you lots of luck. A different – and more selfless – version of the superstition claims that you have to donate the money to charity in order to reap the gnocchi’s good fortune. Either way, chances are if you haven’t been eating gnocchi de papa with pesos under your plate on the 29th of every month, your financial luck is probably lacking.
But why do we do this every month? There are two different theories as to why the 29th is the chosen day, one of them ancient and another more recent. According to Italian legend, in the 8th century there was a young doctor by the name of Pantaleon who traveled around performing miracles. Along his pilgrimage, he ran out of food and turned to a poor, rural family for help. Although they were poor, the family gave him what little bread they did have and in return for their kindness, Pantaleon predicted a great harvest the following year. His promise proved to be true, and Saint Pantaleon was then canonized as a Patron of Venice on the 29th day, forever marking it as a day to both commemorate the miracle and invite financial blessings.
The modern theory comes from 20th century Italian immigration to Argentina and is a bit more straightforward. Since the 29th is right at the end of the month, many families were tight on cash as they waited impatiently for their next paycheck to roll in. So why gnocchi? Because potatoes and flour are inexpensive ingredients that make a filling and tasty meal. In other words, they give you the most bang for your buck. Of course, the added legend about financial windfall adds a nice touch to the ritual, buoying your spirits as you chow down.
If you’re looking to get in on the tradition but don’t have an Argentine abuelita to stuff you so full of ñoqui you can barely move, head to your favorite neighborhood spot to enjoy all the same great flavor and luck, with just a little less love. After all, who doesn’t like their carbs cheap and with a dash of good karma?
Read on for a quick rundown of a few of our favorite pasta joints in Buenos Aires.
If you don’t have a nonna of your own, La Alacena will fill that void. Market fresh, seasonal ingredients breathe new life into chef and co-owner Julieta Oriolo’s treasured family recipes. All of the pastas are made in-house with semolina flour and other top-notch ingredients. Their version of gnocchi – gnudi – includes fresh tomatoes, nduja, and homemade salted ricotta. Basically, all of the good stuff. Go early to grab a seat (outside on a sunny afternoon is *chef’s kiss*) or be prepared to wait. You’ll never want to eat anywhere again.
La Alacena | Gascón y Honduras | Monday & Tuesday 8:30 AM – 8 PM; Wednesday – Friday 8:30 AM – 11:30 PM; Saturday & Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM | Instagram
We’ve written before about how awesome Villa Crespo is. Add pasta mecca Salgado Alimentos to the list, too. This cozy little corner restaurant can satisfy any and all pasta cravings that you might have, making it the perfect spot to check out on the 29th of any month. Everything is homemade with a lot of heart, making you feel like you’re como en casa – if your family were full of crazy talented cooks. Some of their gnocchi offering include the classic beef ragú sauce, while others play with Dijon mustard, capers, and arugula.
Salgado Alimentos | Velazco 401 | Monday 12 – 4 PM; Tuesday – Saturday 12 – 4 PM; 8:30 PM – Midnight | Tel: 4854-1336 | Web
If all this talk of grandmas and old-school traditions has you snoozing, relax. Il Quotidiano is a relatively new arrival to the Buenos Aires world of pastas, bringing an updated splash of style to the scene. Its three locations are constantly buzzing – arrive early or plan to wait, wait, wait – though service is swift and the kitchen works like a well-oiled machine. We’re partial to the pappardelle with lamb ragú, but there are four different kinds of gnocchi you can dive into when the 29th rolls around (or any other day, of course). Keep it classic with tomato sauce and arugula or go wild with a squid ink and frutos de mar version that is sure to impress.
Il Quotidiano | Av. Callao 1299 – Ugarteche 3208 – Recoleta Urban Mall | Sunday – Thursday 8 AM – Midnight; Friday & Saturday 8 AM – 1 AM | Instagram