Since returning from a week of wining and dining in South America a few months back, I've been craving that special European-Latin flavor that is uniquely Argentina. One evening, when we ambled into the tiny Ballpark-neighborhood Buenos Aires Pizzeria, I knew I'd hit the jackpot. The vibrant tango paintings and soccer pennants on the walls brought me right back to the intriguing, multicultural city for which the eatery is named. And no wonder: The humble spot—buzzing on a Tuesday night—is owned by two generations of the Carrera family, straight from the Buenos Aires suburbs.
In mouthwatering anticipation, we ordered empanadas ($2.05 each) before our pizza arrived. Now, I've eaten my fair share of authentic, made-from-scratch empanadas from bakeries in Latin America, and I can easily say that the butternut squash version I inhaled this evening put them all to shame. Perhaps it was the peppery squash-and-carrot filling or the not-a-hint-of-sogginess pastry shells, but my last bite left me wanting another. Instead, we devoured a canastita (open-faced empanada), savoring the artichoke, spinach, and mushroom toppings.
Our pre-pizza fête wasn't over. We dug into one of the half dozen small-plate options: higos envueltos—bacon-wrapped figs with house barbecue sauce. In a perfect blend of sweet and salty, the bite-size morsels, swimming in a dish of tangy sauce, are nothing short of addictive. (Tip: Save the sauce for dipping your pizza crust.)
When the server delivered our Rio Negro pizza—the delightfully cheesy pie where the mozzarella stretches when you lift out a slice—we prepared for a bizarre mélange of flavors: homemade tomato sauce, sliced caramelized pears, bacon, and fresh mint. But the combo worked: The saltiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the pears complemented each other nicely; the mint leaves, an intriguing touch, added a refreshing kicker—like a dollop of the Kentucky Derby—to each bite.
Southern mint, gourmet Mediterranean figs, Spanish empanadas—strange bedfellows at a Denver pizza joint? Not if you've been to Buenos Aires, a city that encompasses all these cultures and more in its flavorful cuisine. Now, next time I get a hankering, I know I don't need my passport. 1319 22nd St., 303-296-6710, www.bapizza.com