El Portico is in a small village, located just outside the city limits, 20 kilometers from Calle 100. It is situated in the middle of a lush, green oasis full of flowers and trees. The compound is built in rustic stone in colonial style architecture, inspired no doubt by old Colombian towns. There are several adjacent buildings with meeting rooms and facilities available for special events. A small bullfighting ring is also part of the complex.

El Portico is the place for a moderately priced Sunday lunch. It is ideal if you have kids. They can run around freely and safely. Reservation can be made on the website which, I strongly recommend. Ample parking is available for guests.

This restaurant belongs to the world- renowned “slow food movement.” The wine list is extensive, and the menu has a broad selection of meat dishes and typical cuisine. To start we had empanadas known to be extraordinary. The small fried meat dumpling, served with Colombian ají — consisting of finely chopped chili, cilantro, onion, and tomato — didn’t let me down.

Next we ordered patacon pisao. What is life without a patacon? These green plantains are fried and then smashed — and then fried all over again — to make one of the nation’s signature offerings.

As the main course, I had the traditional ajiaco — a creamy potato soup — and it was a generous portion served with capers, cream, and avocado. My friend ordered a filet mignon that came with crispy fried spinach leaves and mashed potatoes, the Colombian version cooked with the papa criolla potato only cultivated in the Andes and native to Colombia. It is yellow with a distinct and pleasant flavor and was just one of the many reasons that the meal was most definitely worth the trip.

Km 19 – Autopista Norte

Pastries by chance

Another place that caught my eye and did not disappoint is called Pasteleros: dedicated exclusively to “puff pastry” period! It is a chain with are several convenient locations — including Calle 90 No.14-22 and Calle 136A No.16A -15 — that offers pastries both sweet and savory baked fresh daily.

You can choose from several fillings: the large chicken or cheese treats are excellent for a quick lunch. My favorites are the miniature puff pasties that can be served to accompany a nice cup of tea filled with dulce de leche or guava or ham and cheese. Best of all are the palitos de queso — cheese sticks — that are great for entertaining as snacks for cocktails. The small pastries come pack- aged and sold in bags of 50 or 10 units. The small bags are just $3,500 pesos, or about US$1.20! You can’t go wrong with a true bargain.

Another, if very different, location for pastries is La Castellana 104. A true European shop, it is very pleasant to the eye. As you walk in, there is an eclectic display of beautifully arranged delicacies: cakes, petite fours, sandwiches, pies, and tarts. There is plenty of seating available as well in the spacious, informal location that is a good choice for breakfast or lunch.

You can take out as well. I ordered a quiche. It is moist with a crisp crust and always fresh — great for when you just don’t want to cook. If I may say so, it is the best quiche in Bogotá!. If you decide to stay for a cup of tea or coffee, be patient. The service can be quite slow and sometimes chaotic.

Pasteleros
Calle 90 No.14-22
Calle 136A No.16A-15
La Castellana 104 – Cra 19 No.104-49

Authentic Italian

I recently had lunch at Gianni Trattoria, and it is as authentically Italian as you can get. This restaurant is simple, clean, and affordable. The owner himself makes sure you are satisfied with your meal. I ordered fried calamari and zucchini ($16,000). It was crisp, tasty, and cooked to perfection. After enjoying it so much, I will defiantly return. There is an extensive and well-priced selection of ready-made dishes for take-out: a portion of lasagna Bolognese is $15,000. A half-pound of tagliatelle is $8,000. They deliver.

Carrera 9 No. 81-27.