Share This Page

Gaucho herds Argentina flavors to spot in the Strip

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 8:25 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Customers of Gaucho Parilla put in their orders at the Argentine sandwich shop on Penn Avenue in the Strip District.

The cuisine of Argentina isn't really on the radar of most Pittsburghers, unless they have some kind of connection to the country. If Gaucho Parilla Argentina — a new takeout place in the Strip District — is any indication, that should probably change.

Fans of barbecue and expert grilling in general ought to find a lot to like here, even if a few of the condiments are unfamiliar.

Proprietor Anthony Falcon saw the Strip District as a place where people are already going to check out new and unusual ethnic foods, so it fit his needs perfectly.

“I'm from Brooklyn,” Falcon says. “My father and brother and sister are from Argentina. My mom's side is English. ... I took them to the Strip one day. The food is diverse; this is the spot to be. This is something we had really wanted to bring to Pittsburgh.”

Gaucho is located in the space vacated by Big Mama's House of Soul on Penn Avenue, replacing worn black-and-gold decorations with dark wood, inside and out. There's few places to sit, but counters line the walls, giving the place a cozy, convivial atmosphere. An outdoor patio with seating should be ready by May.

Everything is cooked over wood, and that's it.

“Even restaurant people say, ‘I can't believe your only source of heat for cooking anything is wood,' ” Falcon says.

Some of the world's best beef is raised in Argentina, so it's no surprise that steak takes center stage at Gaucho. You can choose from a quarter pound or half-pound of Bife del Gaucho (cowboy ribeye steak, $11 and $20), Entragna (skirt steak, $8 and $14), Matambre (flank steak, $7 and $12) or Lomo (filet mignon, $15 and $28).

If you're a little less hungry, there are five sandwiches available, including chorizo ($7), with a choice of garlic, spicy or morcilla sausage, with onion, peppers and pimenton.

Surprisingly, there's a good deal here for vegetarians, include the excellent Vegetables sandwich ($8), stacked with grilled asparagus, portobello mushrooms, onions, peppers, zucchini, papas (potatoes) and cebolla condimento.

There's always a large array of “pequenos,” or small plates, for those in the mood to sample. The roasted, seasoned Gaucho Papas ($2) are a good place to start, as are the chorizos ($5), spicy garlic sausages with an outstanding chimmichurri sauce (made from extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, salmuera, parsley, oregano).

One of the best things about Gaucho is simply standing around waiting for your food, watching the grills in action and chatting with the cooks. We were handed toasted bread, and stood around the giant butcher's block in the middle of the room, trying out Gaucho's array of condiments, from Cebolla ($3 for a to-go container), a rosemary, onion and thyme-accented olive oil, to the Pimenton ($3), redolent of charred pepper and garlic.

“The condiments — you can put them on anything,” Falcon says. “We roast the peppers and caramelize the onions and puree the roasted garlic. The only thing coming out of a can is the extra-virgin olive oil.”

The giant butcher's block sort of operates as a condiment bar, and tends to spark conversation.

“The butcher's block has become a centerpiece for us,” Falcon says. “The block itself is about 80 years old. One owner — the gentleman we bought it from — was the former butcher at the A&P in New Castle. He shed a tear as he passed it off to us.”

Simply getting it to Gaucho was a challenge.

“It's about 900, maybe a thousand pounds. There's a small Samoan/Pacific Islander community in Pittsburgh, and I'm friends with them. Even they said it was heavy, and they're ridiculously strong.”

Gaucho is BYOB at the moment, with a catch.

“The cooks prefer malbec,” Falcon says. “Make sure you bring enough for us.”

Gaucho Parilla Argentina, 1607 Penn Ave., Strip District. Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tues.-Fri.; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat. Details: 412-709-6622 or www.eatgaucho.com

Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mmachosky@tribweb.com or 412-320-7901.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.