At a bustling counter inside Güerrín, a central Buenos Aires pizzeria, a young server in a red-and-white uniform dished out slices. Laid out before him was an abundance of thick, golden pizzas, their toppings a bright blend of green olives, red peppers and crispy melted cheese. The queue reached almost to the door, as he cut the portions with movements as lean and efficient as a juggler, the wedges disappearing in minutes.
Every so often, he turned to a stack of what look like crumbly pieces of pizza base and flicked a portion onto a slice as he served it. The result looked like a pizza sandwich, the mozzarella melting slowly out from between the layers. This extra topping isn’t actually from pizza at all but a thick, baked chickpea pancake called fainá.
Made from just chickpea flour, water, oil, salt and pepper, fainá is not complicated. At one of the restaurant’s enormous ovens, I watched as a chef whisked the ingredients into a dribbly batter, poured it into a flat, round metal pan and carefully pushed it into the oven on a long, metal peel. Over the next five minutes or so, large bubbles pulsated on the surface. In the back corner, a blazing log fire heated the oven to almost 400C. The whole kitchen was sweltering and the aroma of baking suffused the air. When the fainá came out of the oven, it was golden-yellow with dark patches, like a harvest Moon. It would serve 20 to 30 people.