Apr 24th, 2009 by Jonny
It’s fairly safe to say that no group, with the exception of the enigmatic gaucho, played as significant a role in defining Argentine national character as the Italians. Primarily (and principally, numerically-speaking) from Liguria (particularly Genoa), Piemonte and Tuscany, but latterly also from Naples and other areas of southern Italy, these Italian immigrants, literally by the million, descended on Argentine soil during the last decades of the 19th century and the inter-war period of the 20th century having a profound effect on the social, cultural, linguistic and gastronomic life of their adopted home. (bear with me, this is going somewhere)
And nowhere in Argentina was this impact greater than in the southern barrios of Buenos Aires, La Boca and San Telmo, the neighborhoods where these Italians began their new lives. A (then) new local slang, lunfardo – which not only features a highly confusing form of wordplay known as vesre that reverses words so tango becomes gotan (as in The Gotan Project) and cafe con leche becomes feca con chele, but which is also littered liberally with words taken from various Italian dialects (for example, laburar (to work) instead of trabajar, manyar (to eat) instead of comer) – grew out of this linguistic melting-pot. And it had a similar effect of Italicizing the Porteño diet with such Italian staples as pizza, pasta, gnocchi, and a variety of Genoese chickpea flatbread known locally as faína (similar to the famous farinata of Genoa we wrote about a while back) accompanying the ubiquitous steak and offal on restaurant menus.
Of course, (and paraphrasing Karl Marx) the Argetin-izing of these Italian staples was also just as much of a historical inevitability, and while we’ll revisit our experiences with Argentine pasta in a later post, the focus here is Argentine pizza, and in particular the Buenos Aires classic dish that is the fugazzetta. Continue Reading »