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Jun 25, 2010 09:49 PM

Antigua: El Pescador Italiano – Gastronomic greatness in Guatemala at last!!!

If this restaurant was in any major metropolitan city in the world, it would be one of the top restaurants.

If this restaurant was in NYC, it would be at the top of the heap, A number one for pizza. El Pescador Italiano could make it in NY, NY and make it anywhere. I’d almost say it is worth a plane ticket to Guatemala just for that pizza.

Chef / owner Luciano Vanelli is from Italy and earned Michelin acclaim at a restaurant in that country.

We stopped in about 5pm just before dinner and all they had at that time was pizza … but wow … what pizza. I haven’t had pizza this good in a few decades and it far surpasses anything I’ve had in the San Francisco Bay Area where I have lived for years.

We had the jumbo prawn pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, garlic, fresh basil, parsley and extra virgin olive oil. There are also fresh jalapenos on it but one of our group doesn’t like spicy so we left them off.

The crust was perfection … not too thin, not too thick, nicely charred, golden from olive oil but not greasy and packed with flavor. Every element was stellar ... top-notch cheese, fantastic tomato sauce, lovely fresh herbs and delicious shrimp. Each slice had two shrimp on it.

The medium was a generous-sized pie and our group of three had three good-sized slices each. For Guatemala this was pricy … just under $20. However, given the quality and the fact that it was about $7 per person, it was quite the bargain.

The menu is more extensive and interesting than the online menu, though almost everything in the next link is on it.

The online menu has a dish I think that sounds interesting … a different twist on the flavors of Guatemala … lamb chop served with goat cheese and chiplin fondue, sautéed lorroco and sweet potato puree. I’m getting that next time.

They had house-made gnocchi pata negro with Iberico pata negro reservada (cured 34 months). A bit on this black-footed pig from Spain that is fed on acorns ... "This is ham as God would make it—sweet, just marbled enough, and fantastically porky."

They have an interesting cocktail list and they are one of the few restaurants in Guatemala that HAS a real wine list which is over 5 pages. Wines are from Italy, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and California. While most wine was reasonably priced, I am so surprised that it seems the standard price for a bottle of Moet Chandon in Guatemala is about $100 USD … which is about the same as the price of the Veuve Cliquat also on the list.

Some interesting cocktails
- Strawberry Ciapiroska – Vodka, lime, sugar, fresh strawberries
- Italian margarita – lime, sugar, tequila, amaretto

We had the sangria which was lovely with chopped citrus and topped with a skewer of cherries, grapes and strawberries.

The non-alcoholic mix of cranberry juice and fresh pineapple juice was liked by all. Everyone liked everything … a lot.

It is a cosmopolitan, yet comfortable restaurant on a side street two blocks from Central Park … out of the main tourist migration path, but nearby if you are a tourist. There’s an inviting bar as you enter, with small but nice restaurant and pretty patio under a huge avocado tree where we ate.

The staff was professional and pleasant.

Sometimes the food gods smile on me.

I had a horrid day in Antigua dealing with visa issues and the icing on the cake was getting a ticket for having the car parked one inch into the white zone. Seriously, don’t test the parking rules in Antigua. Last time the car was booted.

That put the driver in a really, really … really foul mood and a cloud of bad feelings as thick as the smoke from the top of Pacaya clung to the car. The driver found a place on a side street and went off to pay the fine. I waited with a friend in the car and we were all tired and grumpy.

So we are waiting and waiting and I glance at the building that we are LEGALLY parked in front of and it is El Pescador Italiano. Fate had led us here. I rallied the group, we went for a bite to eat and left in good spirits … all was well with the world again.

It is not only far and away the best restaurant I’ve been to in Guatemala, it is in my top ten 2010 list of restaurants here and the US.

I have a long post where I’m writing about restaurants in Guatemala. I have decided a few places are so superb that they require their own post. This is one of them.

Need I say it … highly recommended.

El Pescador Italiano
3a Avenida Norte 1 b
Phone: 7832- 7328
Hours: Closed Wednesday. Thursday – Tuesday noon – 10 pm

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  1. Another really supurb lunch at El Pescador Italiano. Also, I learned they are a class act.

    We ordered the soup of the day which was seafood. It was fabulous, The clear broth was pure clam goodness. It was filled with lots of stellar chopped seafood that included scallops. Lots of fresh chopped herbs completed the dish.. So good ... so good.

    Here's the class act part. They misunderstood and didn't bring my friend his soup. It was a bustling Sunday afternoon and it took three requests to get the soup which arrived after the pizza. They apoligized and said no charge for the soup.

    As far as being good ... my friend sometimes has his food moments ... and sometimes not . I let him have a taste of my soup and when the pizza arrived and still no soup for him, I asked if he wanted to cancel it. He gave a resounding no. He wanted that great soup.

    As to the misunderstanding, it was not really the fault of our charming waiter who spoke perfect English. After taking the order for pizza, he started to walk away and I asked about the soup as an after thought. It sounded good, so we ordered it and he probably thought I meant just me. Still ... it took a few requests to get it. The gesture of taking it off the bill did a lot to make me respect this place even more.

    This time we had the Captain Bry's pizza: Topped with tomato sauce, and parmesan cheese, artichokes, green olives, Italian sausage and oregano.

    It wasn't outstanding like the shrimp pizza, but it was very, very good. What stood out was the excellent mozarella cheese. It wasn't topping heavy which worked in terms of the artichokes, since I rarely like them on pizza.

    It was good people-watching on a Sunday afternoon with mainly locals and families. The table next to us had the equivalent of Antigua's "Sex and the City" ladies ... a generation removed. Dressed to the nines, sipping cocktails and madly text-messaging while chatting ... these 'girls' were still hip and with it despite being of a certain age. It was a nicely mixed crowd ... lots of young couples and some families. I noted a high chair in the corner, so kid-friendly.