My friend, Emily, and I were walking through her new barrio (neighborhood) the other day and she said: “I heard there was a clandestino somewhere around here.”
“A what? Clandestino? Like Manu Chao sings, ‘Clandestino’? I always wondered what that meant in his song. Maybe that’s it, a hidden bar where you have to use the secret knock. Yeah, I want to go to the clandestino.” She said: “I don’t know. Somebody just mentioned there was one in the neighborhood. Moments later we saw it!
I said: “Let’s check it out. The gate is open, it looks like there are tables set up, but I don’t see anybody inside.”
“!Hola! Buenos dias. Anybody home?” No answer.
I turned to Emily: “I feel like we’re intruding. Maybe it’s just somebody’s private party area. Let’s go. I’m getting creeped out.” The next day at exercise class, Emily said she found out from her neighbor, the “Clandestino” was actually a pizza place and it was very good; we should try it out. That evening we did just that. We walked the half a block from Emily’s house to Pizzeria La Finca on Calle Alvarado.
I grew up in Brooklyn, where pizza is a staple. I can still hear my dad: “Hey, let’s get a pie from Nino’s. Whaddya want on it?” We always ended up with the same thing: sausage, mushrooms, black olives and extra cheese. That is the standard by which I judge all pizzas. I’m a tough judge when it comes to pizza. I flew for an international airline years ago, but I still remember the many pizzas we had on most layovers, including Rome, Italy. There were thick, deep-dish pizzas in Chicago, pizzas with ham and pineapple in California, pizzas with cheese stuffed in the crust at Pizza Hut, pizzas you bake at home from Papa Murphy’s, pizzas with pesto sauce and pine nuts and NO red sauce (you call that a pizza?). I’m surprised I never encountered a peanut butter and jelly pizza. The point is, they may try to call these concoctions pizza, but a girl from Brooklyn knows the truth.
Little did I know what a treat I was in for when Emily and I sauntered down the lane for a “Clandestino Pizza”! Really, it was pizza and art! Turns out the owner and chef, Mariano, is not only a pizza artist, but quite the decorator as well. The walls of the restaurant are filled with colorful photos, posters, and mementos of Costa Rica, yester-year. It’s cozy, charming, inviting, and YES! The pizza is good. Very good. It is made-to-order with loving care, and well worth the wait. Mariano carries a nice selection of vino tinto (red wine) that you can sip while perusing the fascinating wall displays.
Pizzeria La Finca is relocating to Atenas Centro within weeks. I have no doubt the pizza will be delicious no matter where he makes it. As for me, I’m going to enjoy it “Clandestino” style while I still can. A bunch of us are going tonight, Thursday. See you on Calle Alvarado; turn off the main road across from the Atenas gas station, where the statue of the caged Madonna marks the spot. Take the first right, go about half a block, look to the left, and follow your nose!