Monday, November 20, 2006

A MILONGUERA'S CHOW GUIDE: November 19, 2006
Restaurant: Mia Casa
Address: J.A. Cabrera 4570
Tel: 4777-2723

When your feet are killing you and you've worked a week's worth of calories off on the the dance floor, there's nothing like having a down-home dive around the corner from the milonga...and I mean DIVE.

Part of the charm of this pizza/comidas arabes joint is its diveness. Currently devoid of any artwork, except for one poster from the 80's of an Arab woman dressed in traditional garb, and lacking any kind of aesthetic sensibility whatsoever with respect to table setting, this restaurant has become a milonga institution by its proximity to Salon Canning. It draws much of its customer base from that milonga, as well as from the budget-conscious locals. These guys took a hit when the milongas closed in late 2004/early 2005 after the Cromanon incident.

The other part of its appeal comes from the two owners, whose names, of course, escape me. The woman zips around in the kitchen whipping up Arabic specialties from your basic hummus to kebbe and, with help from her very capable co-cook, great pizza. The woman never stops to take a break. Her charming and diminutive husband/partner plays maitre d' and waiter.

Here's some dip: The woman owned the restaurant with her then-husband. Her current husband was the waiter. I don't think I need to say more. Let's just say there was a lot more cooking in the kitchen than just pizza and pita bread.

And thank goodness the cooking didn't stopped with their affair!

Last night's menu consisted of our usual sauteed berenjenas (eggplant and tomatoes), a small pizza napolitana with extra garlic for my Italian boyfriend, a 1/2 carafe of the house wine, and a bottle of soda water. It was just enough for me to feel full without busting the seams of my jeans. For those of you used to a Chicago style thick-crusted pizza or a NY style thin-crusted pizza, this crust is sort of in the middle. Not too thick, but definitely not thin. The cheese is decent and gloopy enough, but sometimes, depending on the brand they use, looks a little on the pasty side. Lately, though, they seem to be using the cheese I prefer, giving the pizza a nice smooth flavor and consistency. The added tomato slices make me feel healthy. The wine gets poured out of a big unmarked jug, but, damn, it's good stuff. Slightly sweet and light in the mouth, but after a few glasses, the world is alright with me...which is basically my criteria for a good wine. Don't expect a Chateau Lafitte or whatever hell other red wine brand you have to pay 100 bucks for, but over a slice, it's perfect.

My only beef with this place is...I hate to say it...the cleanliness. OK, I know, I know, I'm not in the States where the Health Department closes down restaurants that don't have soap in their dispensers. I like to think the ovens obliterate any germs or bugs that may have made their way onto my food, and I will continue to think this, thankyouverymuch. The people are so friendly, humble, and eager to please, and the food is so good and cheap that this place will always having me coming back for seconds.

Atmosphere: Atmosphere?! Think, "dive", and add food. No linens, no china, no chairs or tables featured in Architectural Digest. Good music and good people make all the difference in the world.

Service: Superb! The owners want you to have a great experience in their restaurant.

Bathroom: Since this is a review, I have to say that the bathroom could use some cleaning with lots of Comet or another industrial strength cleaner. The last time I used the bathroom there, I swore I would never use the bathroom there again. Denial is a good thing sometimes, psychotherapists be damned (and I'm one of them!).

Total damage: Dinner for two: 19 pesos. The most expensive thing on the menu was a large "completa" pizza for 20 pesos. There are a lot of cheap eats for 8 or 9 pesos, Arabic food you can just grab and run.

Overall: Great chow if you think nice thoughts and plan to use the bathroom before coming.