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Escape To Cali - Colombia - South America

Pizza with a view

Pizza With a View

It’s 3pm on a warm Sunday afternoon in January in Cali, Colombia. We have nothing going on but hunger in our empty stomachs and a full tank of gas in Di’s Renault Cleo. Too late in the day to head to Pance, we explore options a little closer to our San Antonio Neighborhood apartment.

We decide that on visiting Cristo Rey, the Jesus statue that overlooks Cali. I’m not a religious person myself but I do like history and I love a good view, so I’m in. Di grew up in Cali but hasn’t been up to the statue in years, so she’s game too. But what to do about these rumbling stomachs? I phone a friend.

Jaime, a Cali resident of 14 years from Ginebra and my new amigo, had recently told me about some pizza places on the drive up to Cristo Rey. I phoned Jaime and confirmed the directions and our place of interest, Pizza La Curva, the first of several pizza spots in the high elevation neighborhood of Bellavista. The views are great and “vale la pena” (it’s worth the hassle) Jaime says.

He then told me that Cristo Rey is under construction for repairs, and that there is scaffolding the whole length of the statue. But we don’t care, we want pizza and we want views. We hop in the Clio, cue up the Salsa Choke cd that we bought from the bootlegger outside of Berthas Juice Place, rolled the windows down and hit the road!

We hop in the Clio, cue up the Salsa Choke cd that we bought from the bootlegger outside of Berthas Juice Place, rolled the windows down and hit the road!

Out of San Antonio we turn left at Carrera 4 and head west. Crossing the light at Calle 2, the road starts climbing as we pass the back end of San Antonio Park on one left, and the Sebastian Belalcázar Lookout on our right. The road sharps to the left, rising quickly. I downshift the little black hatchback as Di seatbelt dances to the music. Sticking to Carrera 4, we break right at the next fork in the road, the entrance to the Bellavista neighborhood.

The ascent continues and on our left are new high rise buildings, some of the best in Cali I’m told, and on our right, traditional Caleño homes and apartments. A little higher up and the buildings give way to more greenery and a narrower road. Nevertheless there are still full size buses, Jeeps carrying passengers, some hanging on, and motorcycles whipping through it all.

Within 3 minutes we see La Curva Pizza, the house of cheese and bread that will soon quell the hunger in our bellies. We park the car in the empty parking lot, right in front of the restaurant, across from of a dirt field where local kids are playing soccer. Only one table of 6 is occupied when we arrive, and we’re happy that we won’t have to wait long to eat.

Concrete floors, uncomfortable plastic chairs, pure white walls and no art aside from 3 Colombian beer bottles that have been melted to an elongated shape. It’s obvious that the focus of the place is not the place itself. 20 foot ceilings meet a huge opening on the east side of the building, providing a great view of trees, mountains, and the concrete valley below. Two young Caleñas shred mozzarella cheese by hand in the open air kitchen, while cooks set up toppings on their work station in front of the pizza ovens.

We order a “medium” sized margarita pizza with cheese, tomatoes and basil, and a round of french fries, just because they were on the menu and we were starving. Di ordered a pineapple juice and I opt for a glass of water.Shaded from the overhead sun, we sit and stare out at the seemingly still valley below.

After about 10 minutes the waitress brings Diana a pineapple juice which actually tasted more like water, and was difficult to drink. Too bad because we know that good juices are easy to make in Cali.

Being the Juicethusiasts that I am, I only buy juice where I know it’s fresh and delicious (usually on the street) or I make it at home. I’ve had bland juice experiences in the past in other restaurants and a corner store. Bland juice = hell no. Not in a place so rich in fruits. Better to stick to specialists when it comes juice. Fresh is always better than frozen and it helps to ask if you’re unsure.

Hopefully the food will be better. Another 10 minutes and my mouth is watering for the french fries or anything to kill my hunger, but nothing appears. I pass some time by taking a few pictures of the views and the melted beer bottles. The restaurant is starting to fill up and it’s clear that this is an evening destination, with patrons waiting until the hot sun has fully passed over the building. As the seats start to be occupied by Colombian butts, our pizza arrives, but strangely, before our french fries. Whatever, let’s eat!

I place a slice on Diana’s plate and one on mine and it’s clear that something is wrong. Our pizza was loaded with diced tomatoes, rather than whole slices, which made the most centered parts of the pizza a bit watery. Liquid sat at the bottom of the pie and it was obvious that the overabundance of diced tomatoes was causing issues. I felt that the pizza could have been cooked a bit longer to evaporate the water, but in our hunger decided to say nothing.

Besides having to throw out the front third of each slice, the pizza was actually quite delicious. The crust was fluffy and a little crispy, which added a nice touch. The basil was fresh and the tomatoes were red and delicious, but overused.

After downing my first slice (or 2/3 of a slice), the french fries appeared. Better late than never, we accept and devour them as well. They were pretty boring and I doubt they were fresh potatoes. A second slice down in the belly and I could have probably stopped, but decided to eat a third. Out of the eight slice pie, we were left with three slices to take home.

We paid the bill of 36,000 COP (approx $18), which is a considered pricey given options around town. However, when considering that it’s all about the location and view, it’s actually not bad, if the the food was just a little bit better. There were 3 smaller sizes that we could have oped for as well, and maybe that would have made the pizza taste better, making it easier to evaporate the tomato juice. But since we were thinking with our bellies, we went with the 8 slice medium.

In the end there was nothing spectacular about the place except the views. Don’t get me wrong, the pizza was good, but the wateriness won’t let me say that it was great. Next time we might try a pizza with less watery vegetables to give La Curva the chance to redeem itself. Then again with 8 or so pizza places on the same road, it may be good to try another spot.

Tip: Park across the street from the restaurant is visiting by car. Parking in front like we did made backing out of the parking lot tricky, given the motorcycles zooming by around the blind curve. Eventually though, we slid out and headed up the mountain on our <<Journey to Cristo Rey and Beyond>>, bellies full and all.   

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