One of Buenos Aires’s most quietly traditional places, Café Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 825, tel. 011/4342-4328, www.cafetortoni.com.ar) has made no concessions to the 21st century and only a few to the 20th: Upholstered chairs and marble tables stand among sturdy columns beneath a ceiling punctuated by stained-glass vitraux, the wallpaper looks original between the stained wooden trim, and walls are decorated with pictures, portraits, and filete, the traditional porteño sign-painter’s calligraphy.
Acknowledged on the walls, past patrons include singer Carlos Gardel, La Boca painter Benito Quinquela Martín, dramatists Luigi Pirandello and Federico García Lorca, and pianist Arthur Rubinstein; more recently, it has hosted Spain’s King Juan Carlos I and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The original entrance faced Rivadavia, on the north side, but Torcuato de Alvear’s creation of Avenida de Mayo forced it to reorient itself.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition