This month we will be dining at Classica y Moderna, a restaurant that saved an important bookstore from extinction. The bookstore opened in this location in 1938 where it became a nexus of the intellectual community of Buenos Aires. In the early 80’s changes were made that reduced the quantity of books and the open space was turned into a dining room, bar and small stage. One can easily observe the stately air that helps distinguish ‘Clásica’ as one of Buenos Aires’s ‘Bares Historicos y Notables’. There’s a distinct element that has set this cafe apart from the crowd for the last 75 years!
While this is a protected café notable, the interior has been stripped down to the exposed brick. The brick walls, exposed ventilation, and dim lighting give it the feel of a bluesy back alley where you’re likely to slip into some unmarked door and discover a hidden gem. The walls are adorned with distinctly modern paintings and photographs which are in constant rotation. Decorations overhead include old bicycles and signs. It is a pleasant, relaxed space, where it’s easy to chat.
Pianist Juan Carlos Abitábile, plays in the cafe every weekday periodically releasing one hand from his keyboard to offer a hardy pat on the back and daily quip to a passing regular. The serenity of the space, the genial and thorough service of the staff and the superb selection of titles in the bookstore blend together to make Clásica a highly welcomed escape from the teeming activity of Buenos Aires. It is a fitting example of the description of a bookstore that Álvaro Abós gave in the book commemorating Clásica’s 70th anniversary: “A bookstore is like a temple where times stops on the threshold, but through which the climate and pulse of the period have to sweep, wild and uncontained as the wind.”
The meal will begin with a visit to the salad bar where you will find a wonderfully creative selection of dishes. Next a choice of two main courses — one choice will be ñoquis, the other will likely be their superb chicken cazuela.
Dessert will offer a choice of flan, budin or helado. Please note that water is included but coffee/tea or any wine will be charged additionally.
The 29th of every month is traditionally reserved for eating ñoquis, the Italian pasta/dumpling. People have suggested a simple reason for why this ritual takes place on 29th: being a day before payday, it was often a difficult time as wages would be drying up. Eating ñoquis was a good option as they are extremely cheap to make. Potatoes, flour and a pinch of salt is all you need. As part of the tradition, people put a coin or a banknote under their plate, a superstitious gesture meant to attract wealth for the future.
Interestingly, the word ñoqui has been twisted by Argentine slang and is now also used for a government employee who doesn’t do any work but turns up at the end of the month, around the 29th actually, to pick up his pay check.
Date: Thursday, August 29
Location: CLASICA Y MODERNA Av Callao 892
Tel 4812-8707 / 4811-3670
Cost: 120 pesos (this includes water and tip)
RSVP required to: