- Can I have a café Viennois
Glasses, cups, plates, cutlery and trays are carried by men in black suits. Chairs and people are part of the scene of the Café
Tortoni, which is active and busy all day long.
- Can I have a beer?
- Draught beer?
We always hear a repeated phrase: Tortoni is the oldest coffee-shop in Argentina. It was founded in 1858 and after 150 years of history it remains and is still trading. This place, which might well serve as a museum and which seems to have welcomed almost the whole country is, however, just like any other coffee-shop in the city. But, to tell you the real truth, it is not certainly like any other coffee-shop, you can feel something of Café
Tortoni in every coffee-shop in Buenos Aires
- Could you bring me a pizza? A bell pepper pizza.
- Bell pepper for one. Ok.
Of European atmosphere, the Tortoni was founded by a French immigrant whose surname was Touan and who named this coffee-shop “Tortoni”, after a famous café
opened in Paris by an Italian immigrant, which was the gathering place of cultural Paris in the XIX century.
The details displayed in this coffee-shop seem to have been taken out of some corner of the then flourishing City of Light.
-A coffee with a dash of milk, please.
However, it is as French as it is porteño
... This café
with high ceilings, special lamps, walls covered by wood was the haunt of generations and generations of customers who brought the best, the worst and the same old stories of this country.
Tortoni has worshiped the memory of all the renowned people who nowadays are symbols of our country, but in those days, they were only guests in search of a good atmosphere and a cup of coffee. Carlos Gardel, Jorge Luis Borges, Benito Quinquela Martín, Alfonsina Storni, Juan de Dios Filiberto, Raúl González Tuñón were some of the regulars.
In one of the showcases we could see a coin given to the café as a gift when Mayo Avenue was opened after being upgraded to keep up with the progress of the big city. Café Tortoni stood there even before.
- A toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Can I have it with water, please?
- Sparkling or still water?
The cultural world seems to have been part of this place and is still alive. There are a lot of acknowledgements proudly exhibited and plenty of works of art such as sculptures, paintings, etchings as well as drawings on their walls which cover their corners decorating the café.
The Tortoni has an army of men in black and white, experienced professionals and eager young employees who are always ready to assist and offer their best to their customers.
Tourists from all over the world know that Tortoni is a must during their visit to Buenos Aires. Some of the languages heard at the Tortoni’s tables are hard to identify.
But, this does not mean that this café has become a sort of international place. Certainly, porteños may share this place with people from the provinces and from abroad, since everyone has one thing in common: they all want a cup of coffee.
Undoubtedly, Café Tortoni is open to a variety of things. Almost every day we can enjoy activities and shows on a stage specially set up and in its basement.
-A coffee in a tall cup, please.
However, going back and forth so many times is not really tiresome. The hustle and bustle of this café keeps up the pace of a XIX century, we thought it had been lost until we got inside the venue. Definitely, we breathe a different air here inside.
Beyond its famous history, its artistic, historical or nostalgic value, there is one element which makes the Café Tortoni a magical place: it is still a fabulous place to have a coffee.