Café Tortoni, located at 825 Avenida de Mayo, in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Its name almost certainly comes from what was at the end of the 19th century the famous Café Tortoni in Paris. For almost a century, the Buenos Aires-Argentine Tortoni Café is the most representative of the traditional spirit of the said Avenida de Mayo, and is already a legend of the city of Buenos Aires. The most popular literary club in Buenos Aires, led by the painter Benito Quinquela Martín, worked in this café.
Today it is still a quintessential place for cultural and tourist dissemination.
This bar belongs to the select group of notable bars in the City of Buenos Aires, a group that brings together the most representative bars and cafes in the city and is officially supported by programs of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires.
La Peña del Tortoni
“La Peña“, inaugurated in 1926, worked in the café, which promoted the protection of arts and letters until its disappearance in 1943, and which was led by Benito Quinquela Martín.
It was an idea that Quinquela Martín acquired on a trip through France and decided to put into practice in his country, where friends and colleagues who enjoyed good conversation did not have an adequate space to meet. This “peña” had been born in the La Cosechera café (Peru street and Avenida de Mayo) and then moved to the Tortoni tables. As the place became small over time, Curutchet offered the wine cellar so they could meet more comfortably and moved the winery to another location. Thus the “peña”, called now People and Arts Association, was inaugurated on May 24, 1926 and carried out tasks of cultural dissemination through concerts, recitals, conferences, and debates.
Among the attendees were, among others, Alfonsina Storni, Baldomero Fernández Moreno, Juana de Ibarbourou, Arthur Rubinstein, Conrado Nalé Roxlo, Antonio Bermúdez Franco, Ricardo Viñes, Roberto Arlt, José Ortega y Gasset, Jorge Luis Borges and Florencio Molina Campos. The tables saw political figures pass by like Lisandro de la Torre, Ernesto Palacio and Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear; popular figures such as Carlos Gardel (who once sang a tango in honor of the Italian author Luigi Pirandello, who had just lectured at La Bodega) and Juan Manuel Fangio; prestigious international figures such as Albert Einstein and Federico García Lorca; and heads of state such as Juan Carlos de Borbón.
When the group closed in 1943, the proceeds from the sale of the furniture (including a Steinway piano in which Arthur Rubinstein, Alejandro Brailowsky, Lía Cimaglia Espinosa and Héctor Panizza played) were used to obtain the granite with which Luis Perlotti made the monument to Alfonsina Storni in Mar del Plata, buy furniture for recreation in Tigre where Leopoldo Lugones died and erect a monument to the memory of Fernando Fader in Mendoza.
Carlos Gardel, in addition to singing twice in the café, was for a time a regular at the place. According to Enrique Cadícamo’s testimony, he used to occupy the table on the right side next to the window entering Rivadavia, where he could meet friends without being approached by his admirers.