La Boca and San Telmo are the oldest barrios in Buenos Aires, and the birthplace of tango.
La Boca, the port area, was populated by Italian, and in particular Genoese, immigrants. For this reason fans of Boca Juniors, the football club the immigrants founded, are known as ‘Los Xeneizes’.
Some say that La Boca got its name from a part of Genoa called Boccadasse (I’ve been there, see my post). In both cases ‘la boca’ refers to ‘the mouth’ of a river.
The area has a militant political history as well. In 1882 after a General Strike, the barrio seceded from Argentina and formed the ‘República Independiente de La Boca’ over which they raised the Genoese flag (the St. George cross), until the revolt was put down by the President Roca and his army.
In 1904 the barrio elected the first Socialist member of the national congress and in 2001 it was the scene of big demonstrations over the economic crisis.
The neighbourhood is famous for its brightly-painted multicoloured houses. The story goes that this came about because the inhabitants were using up leftovers from painting the ships in port. This paint would quickly run out so they had to use another colour, or several colours, to finish the house.
On my last night in Buenos Aires in 2014 I went out with a group of friends to this famous restaurant in the neighbourhood.
El Obrero (Intermediate A), 64 Agustín R. Caffarena
This is a down-to-earth parrilla (El Obrero means ‘The Worker’) that has heaps of character, a must do in my opinion.
The walls of the restaurant are covered with football scarves, pennants, posters and pictures, including some choice ones of local hero Maradona.
We kicked off with some Calamari rings and grilled Proveleta, both of which were fine (B).
As it was my going away do, I got to have a platter of offal; sweetbreads, liver and kidneys (all B), although my companions didn’t give me much help with it.
Three kinds of steak were on show. I ordered Vacio (flank steak) as I’d never had it before, and never will again (C).
Thankfully my friend Nicky couldn’t manage all of her excellent Bife de Lomo (A), so I came to her aid.
Anthea went for the Asado which was so big she took half of it home with her.
The six of us got through three different bottles of Malbec. Can’ t remember how good they were but they went down a treat.
Despite being a bit of a rowdy crew we got excellent service from our lovely waitress. She showed us a few pictures on the wall of her and some Hollywood stars and members of European royal families who’d popped in for a steak.
Finally we all got a shot of real limoncello, homemade and served ice cold as it should be. This was definitely evidence of a strong Italian influence as nowhere else in Argentina seems to be able to serve it properly.
So, a fantastic evening. Good food and a great atmosphere. I really can’t wait to go again!
At night you should get taxis to and from this restaurant as walking around the side streets in La Boca isn’t a good idea after dark (or in the daytime either for that matter) as it’s a very poor area. Please see my La Boca comments in my post on Staying Safe in BsAs.