Buenos Aires - Monserrat: Café Tortoni
Café Tortoni, at Avenida de Mayo 825, is the oldest and most quintessential Porteño café. Inside time has stood still, as the café has preserved its art nouveau decoration. Oak and green marble tables, chandeliers and Tiffany lamps stand among sturdy columns beneath a ceiling punctuated by stained-glass vitraux. Oak paneled walls are decorated with with pictures, portraits, and filete, the traditional porteño sign-painter's calligraphy. A cramped side gallery, Sala Alfonsina, and downstairs salon host jazz and tango shows as well as poetry readings.
Café Tortoni was originally opened at the corner of Rivadavia y Esmeralda in 1858 by Jean Touan, a French immigrant who tooks its name from a café on Boulevard des Italiens in Paris. It moved to its current location in 1880, which was previously occupied by Templo Escocés, but its entrance originally faced Rivadavia. It was reoriented in 1898 with architect Alejandro Christophersen redesigned Avenida de Mayo façade. Towards the end of the century, Frenchman Celestino Curutchet purchased the café.
Starting in 1926, Café Tortoni's basement served as home to La Peña, a group of painters, writers, journalists and musicians who formed la Agrupación de Gente de Artes y Letras, headed by Benito Quinquela Martín. Over the years it has played host to many key Latin American figures from bohemia, literati and politics over the years including Carlos Gardel, Alfonsina Storni, Jorge Luis Borges, Marcelo Torcuato de Alvea, Lisandro de la Torre, Molina Campos, and Juan Manuel Fangio, as well as prominent international visitors including Albert Einstein, Federico García Lorca, Juan Carlos de Borbón and Hillary Clinton.