When Seattle restaurateur Marco Casas-Beaux was growing up in Mar del Plata, Argentina, every morning started with a cafe con leche and a media luna — a pastry similar to a croissant, but smaller and sweeter. In the afternoons, he’d sometimes snack on English tea sandwiches or biscotti; thick-crusted Argentine pizza was a dinner staple.
“Argentina is the only country in Latin America that has almost 90 percent European backgrounds,” Casas-Beax says. “They all brought their own style of pastries with them, and we were lucky enough to be able to get a taste of everything.”
Casas-Beaux, whose family immigrated to Argentina from Italy, went on to move to Seattle and start several successful restaurants including the Boca Restobar and Grill and Cactus mini chains. But he missed his media lunas in the morning. “I have to have it,” he says.
This desire turned into a business, Boca Argentine Bakery and Pizzeria, which recently opened near the corner of Broadway and Republican Street in Capitol Hill. In the mornings, Casas-Beaux is serving Argentine pastries, espresso, fresh-squeezed juice, and mate (the staple caffeinated drink in Argentina). Starting at 11 a.m. Neapolitan and Argentine pizzas start coming out of the oven. And in the evenings, the focus shifts to Spanish tapas, served with wine, beer, and cocktails (though Casas-Beaux has few cultural ties to Spain, he says he’s traveled extensively in the country and is a “fanatic” of tapas).
The airy white-walled space has around 100 indoor seats and large French doors opening onto a sidewalk patio with a white parasol and hanging plants. Shelves filled with loaves of crusty bread hang above a service counter which separates the La Marzocco espresso machine and the shiny black brick oven from customers waiting in line to order.
Beyond the medialunas, pastries include churros, alfajores (similar to macarons), bolas (dulce-de-leche-filled donuts), and fosforitos (flaky pastry sandwiches with ham, cheese, and arugula). Casas-Beaux hired Molly Harrison, an Argentine pastry chef, to run his pastry program.
Pizzas include Neapolitan pies topped with classic Italian ingredients like mozzarella, basil, and Calabrese sausage. But Casas-Beaux is also offering the thick-crusted, cheesy pizzas he grew up eating in Argentina, a dish called fugazza or fugazzetta that he describes as something between a Neapolitan pizza and a Chicago deep-dish pizza. “The pizza in Argentina is amazing,” Casas-Beaux says. “We have some great grain in the Pampas. The water is pristine.”
While the grain and the water in Washington are different than that in Argentina, Casas-Beaux adjusted the dough recipes to make them taste like home, using a sourdough starter for the fermentation and an oven that uses both gas and wood for baking. He’s serving all kinds of espresso, beer, and wine throughout the day, but the bar will stick to classic Italian beverages like Negronis, fernet, and vermouth.
The evening menu at Boca Argentine Bakery and Pizzeria is loaded with tapas from all over Spain — think tortilla espanola, Galician-style octopus, and chorizo cooked with hard apple cider, a specialty of northern Spain.
While Boca Argentine Bakery and Pizzeria is perhaps the most prominent Argentine bakery to open in Seattle yet, Seatango Argentine Bakery and Cafe (a graduate of the incubator program at Spice Bridge) has been serving alfajores and empanadas in Lake City since June 2021, and Sur Argentine Bakery has been serving Argentine pizza and pepas (crispy cookies filled with quince paste) in Lakewood since 2019. When Casas-Beaux started running restaurants in Seattle 30 years ago, he says people hardly knew about the gastronomical wonders of his home country. A couple of decades — and multiple Argentine restaurants — later, he says he’s thrilled his country’s brag-worthy cuisine is gaining recognition.
Update: July 13, 2022: A previous version of this article mistakenly spelled Marco Casas-Beaux’s last name without a hyphen. The last name is hyphenated.