Thursday, 31 October 2013

Maria Fedele

A night away from tango means 'let's go out for dinner'! So tonight, we are heading for a special meal at 'Maria Fedele', at the time of writing in Bolivar 933 - three blocks away from our home in Chacabuco (now Adolfo Asina 1465).
Passing on the way back from the micro centre, we had noticed the lace curtains of Maria Fedele, with the glow of soft lighting and candles beyond, and the tanned, relaxed faces of Portenos dining there.
This is a small, family run business, with forty covers in pairs, fours and groups. The entrance is narrow and leads straight from the street. Outside, a trusted retainer waits to ensure safety on entry. To the right is the bell, and the door will be unlocked for visiting diners.
Inside, the single room extends back to a bar area, beyond which is the kitchen. Waiting is done by members of the family, with the owner as head waiter. At the turn of the 20th century many Italian families like this made their way to Buenos Aires for a new and prosperous life. Clearly, we have a reservation and as early diners, are given a choice of tables. We choose the single against the window that looks back out to Bolivar and beyond to the San Telmo Mercado.
Here at Maria Fedele there is no point in looking for a menu. Typical of traditional Italian restaurants, the meal is set for the day, and diners eat what is prepared. The set price of 180 pesos (£12.40) provides a meal of four courses and fourteen dishes and an aperitif.
We start with antipasto - and here we are speaking of a collection of eight plates, including two hams. The aubergine with parsley is divine, and the pate smooth and buttery. The art is to resist the bread, for the meal with bread would defeat all but the most devoted gastronome. Our taste buds are zinging, and we order a Reto Malbec 2011 as a treat.
Between courses, we glance around the restaurant. To the left, mahogany shelving containing the wines rises high to the ceiling. Here too are pictures of the family - and above us to the right is a montage showing it's history from the arrival of the owner's grandparents, seated centre-stage with their progeny spreading out to the edges. At the far end of the room, next to the bar stand the iconography - Mary and baby Jesus, with the effigy of a priest in full robes.
After the antipasto comes the pasta dish. Tonight it is spaghetti with a light tomato sauce, tossed in a bag full of mozzarella with fresh basil. It is served in a bowl large enough for four, and the danger is to try it all. The pasta is beautifully al diente, giving a soft-crisp feel to to tongue.
Whilst diners have arrived at different times after 9.00 pm, by now we are all synchronised for service of the next dish. Across, six men relax together, their conversation intense and peppered with laughter. Further to the centre is an extended family who have brought their small children, aged between 4 to 5. As the evening progresses, they remain bright eyed at the table, contributing fragments of speech and taking photographs with their disposable cameras. In one corner, two young men romance their girlfriends with subtlety.
Today, the main course is risotto with wild mushrooms. The sauce is a source of delight and the taste is indefinable.
At this point, the desire for a sweet is overwhelming, but the capacity shrinks. But here come four deserts. Each has a medium sized plate to itself, with cream, chocolate, pastry and dustings of cocoa. To follow, a cafetierre with cream sweetened by liquor.
With a bill of 490 pesos (just over £34 for two) we rise and bid the owner farewell. This has been a memorable meal - for quality, taste, quantity and ambience. We feel as if we have been embraced by the Fedele family and treated as their own.
Outside the air is fresh, but not yet cool. It is 1.00 am and we have dined for three hours. As we saunter in Bolivar, we see the local residents sitting on their steps eating ice cream from half litre polystyrene tubs, and at the corner, waiting for the colectivo to take visitors to their homes. We drop a right turn, via Humberto Primo and into Chacabuco, and home.