Due to our choice of accommodations, the excellent, value-for-money Casa Hernandez, we often found ourselves in San Lorenzo, a quiet suburb about 10 kilometres away from Salta, at dinner time. Given its location and serenity, it would surprise no one if I told you that in a space of 194 square kilometres, there were scarcely 5000 inhabitants and a mere handful of restaurants. Here’s where we ate:
We are very grateful to our B&B owners for highlighting Tosca on our first day in San Lorenzo. Not just because it was a good restaurant, which it was, but also because on a bitterly cold Monday evening, after everything other restaurant we walked past in town was closed, we finally saw the lights twinkling in Tosca, a sure sign it was open. We were so happy to get out of the cold that we would have gladly chomped down any food served to us. Luckily, Tosca is more than just mediocre, and ranks as one of the better meals we had in Argentina. The decor was upscale and luxurious, and service was warm and professional, with the server bringing the husband an assortment of corks after he mimed his interest in keeping just the corks of the wine we drank (ah, the joys and perils of not speaking the native language). The warm bread and assortment of dips were instantly notches above average, and the mains were well cooked and seasoned. The pasta ranked as one of the best value dishes throughout our trip, where for a mere 20 pesos, we enjoyed large homemade ravioli, generously stuffed with a melangé of cheeses and cooked just al dente in a buttery cream sauce.
Lo de Andres
Situated virtually next door to Tosca, Lo de Andres, the neighbor with the longer tenure, enjoys positive reviews and the loyal patronage of San Lorenzo’s inhabitants. The restaurant is indeed rustically charming, all wood and brick with a roaring fireplace the night we visited. While the food was also on par with Tosca, we preferred our meal at Tosca, largely due to the differences in service standards. On the night we visited, there were only 2 young servers without much training at Lo de Andres, and consequently we had sometimes well-meaning but clumsy, and other times nonchalant service that detracted from the food. Still, if you’re in the market for a decent steak, you are in good hands here, for P’s lomo de chorizo was cooked just right, oozing with pink, mineral juices and served with crisp, pan-fried potatoes.
La Pizze de Dionicio
There was a small block of food-related shops at the end of our street, housing a cafe, a supermarket, an ice-cream shop and La Pizza de Dionicio, whose wares we ended up sampling twice when we got too lazy to venture further.
Surprisingly, the pizza was the best we tried in Argentina, thanks to the huge stone oven they had built in the kitchen, with a thin crust and nice char on the bottom. The San Lorenzo pizza was topped with some regional touches such as goat’s cheese and corn, making it a light, gourmet meal at the local greasy joint. Dionicio churned out piping hot empanadas made in the same oven for us on the afternoon we departed Salta, with a similarly good crust and fresh tasting, slightly spiced meat. Stick with the oven-cooked stuff though, because the sandwich disappointed with an overly flattened and dry flank steak.
With an artisanal ice cream shop just 2 minutes away from the B&B, did you think I would’ve missed it? Of course not, so on an uncharacteristically sunny afternoon, P and I found ourselves, along with some neighborhood kids, parked on the terrace of Rosmari, licking our dulce de leche and vanilla ice cream. Given significant Italian heritage in Argentina, the helados here are rooted in the Italian gelato tradition, with less eggs and cream and more milk. The resulting texture, while not as sticky and unctuous as Italian gelato is a good approximate for it, and the flavors are sweet and bold. Given the national love for dulce de leche, one counted more than 5 types of dulce de leche variants on the list. What’s the difference? I can’t tell, but perhaps a connoisseur would enlighten me of the subtleties that lie between normal dulce de leche and super dulce de leche?
Tosca: Juan Carlos Davalos 1499, Villa San Lorenzo, Salta, Argentina
Lo de Andres: Juan Carlos Davalos 1401 (esq Gorriti), Villa San Lorenzo, Salta, Argentina
La Pizza de Dionicio: Av St Martin 1700 (esq. Hernandez), Villa San Lorenzo, Salta, Argentina
Rosmari Helados: next door to La Pizza de Dionicio
San Lorenzo official tourist site: http://www.sanlorenzo.todowebsalta.com.ar/