Alejandro Argüello was the first to cook Neapolitan-style pizza in our country. He opened Cucinotto in City Bell in 2008, when that style was unknown in these latitudes where the imperative was a high dough and lots and lots of mozzarella. Just two years later, this type of Italian pizza landed in Buenos Aires with Siamo nel forno (the first to obtain the Vera pizza napoletana certification) and then others followed that turned it into a trend.
This pioneer from La Plata has been cooking since he was 14 years old. He worked for 12 years in Europe from where he brought the recipe and expertise to position himself as a benchmark in pizza. He was a three-time judge of the federal pizza championship, a contest organized by the City government.
In addition, he is a fundamentalist of organic products, buying from local producers and working with special flours. Their buns have a rest of 72 hours before being baked in an oven brought from Italy that burns by force of white and red quebracho. "We work with a 100% wood-fired oven between 400 degrees and 480 degrees," he explains.
The Cucinotto Story
Alejandro Argüello discovered his passion for fires at the age of 14: "Every Sunday he kneaded pasta and from a very young age I got involved. Professionally, I started cooking at the age of 14. I would leave school and go to a friend's restaurant to learn," he recalls.
At the age of 18 he left to travel around Europe and work in restaurants in Italy, France and Spain: "In one of those places I worked with a Neapolitan, there I saw how they made pizza and I was amazed," says Alejandro and refers to the moment he discovered the Neapolitan pizza style. "It was a new world for me," he admits.
Cucinotto's salon fills up every night. Photo: Martín Bonetto.
"When we opened in June 2008, there was nothing here," says Alejandro, referring to the fact that today his place is located in the City Bell area with more gastronomic establishments. "I was scared because the pizza here was very tall, with a lot of cheese, very loaded. I didn't know what was going to happen."
But little by little, Alejandro managed to educate the palate of his diners: "At first it was weird because some people told you that the pizza lacked cheese." To achieve this, he made a "mestizo" pizza: "Here I make one adapted to our palate. In Napoli they eat a pizza each. My bun is a little bigger to eat and share," she describes.
The oven that Alejandro brought from Naples for his pizzeria. Photo: Martín Bonetto.
Another obstacle he had to overcome was the lack of product diversity: "At that time there was no burrata, no stracciatella, no mozzarella fiordilatte. Little by little, some goat cheeses began to appear, but they didn't make it to City Bell. I had a friend who worked at the Hyatt and he would ask for them and I would go get them," she recalls.
He was the first to serve this style of pizza in the area: "In La Plata there was only one pizzeria that stretched the bun on the spot but it wasn't wood-fired, it was more like a pizza on the stone." In short, what Alejandro wanted was to maintain an Italian tradition with the products we have available in Argentina.
What is Cucinotto's pizza like and how much does it cost?
Cucinotto's Neapolitan-style pizza at City Bell. Photo: Martin Bonetto.
Alejandro is a fundamentalist of good quality: "I use non-transo products, the vegetables are organic and I work with organic flours from the Campodónico Mill that take special care with wheat," he says. "I want to show that pizza is a food that can be eaten every day." For the sauce of his pizzas, he uses Mendoza tomatoes "which are spectacular and have no water." As a topping, he uses tomatoes from La Plata.
"For me, pizza isn't just tomato sauce and cheese." The Pizzaiolo who taught him told him that he had to think of pizza dough as a dish and make cooking up from that dish. That's why today he defines his pizza as contemporary: "It's using a classic product like pizza and adding more up-to-date ingredients or preparations."
Cucinotto's pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven. Photo: Martín Bonetto.
As she works with seasonal products, the menu is seasonal with the exception of the pizzas with cold cuts – where she uses products from Las Dinas, an artisan slaughterhouse in Tandil. "I recommend that they try something they can't eat anywhere else. There are pizzas with beetroot cream that is not usual or gorgonzola cheese on a pumpkin-based pizza."
There are a variety of pizzas with burrata that are served with prosciutto, bologna, nduja, arugula or eggplant cream (starting at $5,300). Also noteworthy is the one served with speck (smoked ham) and mascarpone.
Alejandro Argüello works with organic ingredients. Photo: Martín Bonetto
But they don't only serve pizzas, there are also cooking dishes such as pastas, meats, seafood, risottos (from $ 4,000). As starters, the provoleta with seasonal vegetables ($4,600) stands out. In summer they offer bruschettas.
The empanadas ($750) are also baked and there is knife-cut meat, ham and cheese, cheese and onion and spinach "when available," Alejandro clarifies. For dessert they serve tiramisu with mascarpone, chocolate volcano, flan, bread pudding and coffee affogato: "I started serving it when no one else was doing it, now it's fashionable," she clarifies.
The afogatto is very famous in its pizzeria. Photo: Martín Bonetto.
When Alejandro started the room it was only for 20 seats. The success forced him to expand the premises. To do this, he added a gallery that he later also expanded. In summer, the roof of that space runs, the doors open and most of the tables are left outdoors.
Despite the spaciousness of the place, it fills up every day and there is a queue. They open at 19.30pm. On weekends the line is long and the wait can be up to an hour. What's the hook that brings all these people to City Bell? "Everyone likes flour, if the dough is good and the products have flavor, it's hard to fail," Alejandro concludes.
Cucinotto. 14 272th Street A, City Bell. La Plata. Tuesday to Sunday from 19.30 pm to 23.30 pm. Instagram: @cucinotto.