It was like losing a close friend. One who was always there for you. Then suddenly they were gone. Without as much as a hasta luego. Without even a note left on their door.
That door wasn’t far from the corner of Mesones and Collegio in San Miguel de Allende. And it was at that corner that I’d think to myself, If I don’t listen to the faretaker shouting “Soriano, Soriano”, if I don’t shuffle up those steps on to the Number 8 bus, if I trudge up the hill instead, I could first nip down the stairs into Plaza Civica and maybe justify a walk through that door.
Above that door were the words Empanadas d Loreto. In fact those words are still there above that door. But inside, what was one of San Miguel’s very special treats, has vanished.
Those empanadas, just the right size so that they didn’t quite spoil dinner…or even lunch…are no more. With that flakiest of all crusts. With so many flavor fillings that even I didn’t get through them all and now I never will. Empanadas d Loreto appears to be gone forever, along with their little branch location on Hernandez Macias. And who knows where or why?
What to do? The same thing you might do if you really did lose a close friend. Make a new one. Fast. And I already have.
Empanadas go by different handles in different parts of the world. In India they’re called Samosas. In Scotland, Bridies. In Bolivia, Saltenas. In the Dominion Republic, pastelitos. In Greece, Spanokapita. In Jamaica, patties. In Portugal, empadas. In the Philippines, Spain, Argentina and Mexico, empanadas. And in Italy, they’re called Calzones.
I was walking through the new Mercado del Carmen when I spotted that word. Calzone. In large pink letters on a blackboard with the heading Especiales. The space in the market is called Nuova Spaghetteria La Cucina di Afrodita and it’s Laura Buccheri’s third location in San Miguel but, don’t be alarmed, it doesn’t look, feel or taste like a chain restaurant. But could Afrodita’s calzone replace Loreto’s empanada?
Don Day’s Wife and I snagged a couple of the won’t be white long cushions and sat down at one of the 21st Century-style picnic benches to watch Laura’s fingers work their charm on the pizza dough that would soon be the crust and did what married couples do. We started an argument…sorry, discussion.
“Are you OK with anchovies”, asked Laura, “that’s a traditional calzone ingredient in Sicily?”
“As long as there are lots”, said Don Day.
“As long as there aren’t too many”, said Don Day’s Wife.
The obvious mozzarella and the not so obvious escarole were also stuffed inside the dough and then the real argument…sorry, discussion started.
“Did you see where Laura put the calzone?”, said Don Day’s Wife. “In the pot of fat, not the oven. A calzone should be baked, just like an empanada.”
I said it could be either fried or baked (but did concede that it would be more appropriate to call it a panzerotti when it’s deep-fried) and asked Laura why she didn’t use her pizza oven.
“This oven makes a very good pizza but not a Neopolitan style, thin crust pizza. You need a lot more heat to get the crust right and the same goes for a calzone,” she explained. “If I had a brick oven here, like at our place in the campo, I would definitely use it for the calzone.”
“Deep-frying works great as long as the temperature’s right and the oil is clean.”
The oil in La Cucina di Afrodita’s pot was crystal clear and I think I preferred the calzone deep-fried to ones I’ve had oven-baked. I can best describe that with a comparison to potatoes. I love a baked potato smothered in butter and sour cream, but if I could only eat one kind of potato for the rest of my life, it would have to be French fried.
And how did the Afrodita’s calzone compare with Loreto’s empanada?
“They’re two different things”, said Don Day’s Wife, “you can’t really compare them. They’re both so good in their own way. The big difference is Loreto’s is gone, Afrodita’s is still here.”
Spaghetteria Nuova La Cucina di Afrodita is located in Mercado del Carmen, Pila Seca 19, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The market is open from 1:00 pm to 11:00 pm.