After 3 days and 2 nights in the depths of the Colca Canyon we were looking forward to relaxing and lapping up the local culture. We decided to stop a night in Cabanaconde and discovered what real pizza tastes like when it’s made with love.
Cabanaconde is the place to start and probably finish if you are looking to trek the Colca Canyon (read about our experience here). You don’t have to stay in the village, as buses arrive and depart the main square regularly, but we did and we enjoyed it. There is not a lot going on but the main square is clean and well manicured, and the church has an imposing, gothic feel to it. There are also a couple of pizza joints and some reasonably priced accomodation. Be prepared, there are no ATM’s and it’s about 2 hours to Chivay where you will find the nearest bank.
We arrived back from Llahuar at about 2pm and were dropped at the main square. A couple of other travellers mentioned they were staying at Pachamama for 15 soles each, but we had heard about a hospedaje close to the square with a pizza oven that had come highly recommended so we were on a mission to find it. We cut across the plaza to La Terraza restaurant and hostel to enquire. The accomodation was called Villa Pastor, they had a double room with ensuite for 15 soles each and it looked as though they had a pizza oven! Funny because it was nothing to write home about but it was cheap and not awful so we thought their standards may be low and this must be it. So we checked in (read my full review here).
We dropped our bags and went in search of lunch. Having checked a couple of places on the square we ended up just sitting down at a place. The waitress was nice and their was a table outside so even though it looked a bit grim, we just sat. The menu was basic, creme de choclo sopa con lomo saltado (cream of corn soup with a common Peruvian beef stir fry dish) but tasted OK. It was only 6 soles each for the lot, and we didn’t get sick so no complaints from me. However, I’m not going to recommend this restaurant as it was dirty and full of flies. I’m also not going to name names because chances are any normal person would probably walk in there and walk straight out again anyway.
Apparently there is a nice place for lunch a couple of doors down from La Terraza, so if you find yourself in Cabanaconde pop in there and order the trucha (trout) 8 soles.
After lunch we wandered down to check out Pachamama. We poked our head in the door and could tell by the courtyard that it was clean and had great vibes. We also saw on the door that their restaurant has a pizza oven… THIS was the place that had been recommended! Oops.
So we went back to our 2nd rate place for a sulk and a nap. On the bright side, the restaurant connected to our joint “La Terrazas” opened at 4pm so we woke up just in time to sip a cold beer on the terrace overlooking the square.
We didn’t actually eat at La Terrazas because we’d had a small taste of Pachamama and we wanted to go back… As soon as we walked into the restaurant I felt happy. We ordered a beer and the lovely waiter came and lit a candle at our table! The pizza menu has all the old favourites but with a unique twist, offering an array of local ingredients to put a Colca spin on an Italian classic.
We ordered a vegetarian pizza and a beer to share and while we waited the chef tendered to the pizza oven with love, and checked on all the tables with a huge smile and positive energy.
Oh boy the pizza… Hands down, the best pizza I’ve ever had! The base was heavenly. Light and crunchy, somehow it just melted in the mouth. The toppings were perfectly balanced with an epic ratio of cheese to veges. I’m sure the meat pizzas would be just as tasty, because Alpaca or not, the key ingredient was that base! I was in love.
The total bill was 42 soles, and when we went up to pay I asked how they made their bases… Well that’s when we were properly introduced to Mirko: head chef, brother of the owner and a pizza legend! I asked what his secret was, he started to tell us but noticing my Spanish comprehension was limited, invited us back to make the dough with him in the morning.
The next day I was very excited. We went back to Pachamama for breakfast, which was pancake, scrambled egg, bread and jam, tea and a fresh juice (10 soles but all included if you stay there). I don’t think Mirko thought we would take him up on his offer, because he didn’t really need to make any extra dough. However, seeing we were there and eager to learn he was happy to make up a small batch for the sake of the lesson.
He is a fantastic teacher, didn’t mind me taking photos and even encouraged us to take a video of the all important kneading process. NB: You must never hand your dough over to someone else in the middle of this process, she will get jealous and it will be reflected in the final product.
He helped us get the quantities right in our notes for a family of 6, taught us about timings and how to get the heat right in the pizza oven. I can say with absolute certainty that the key ingredient that makes these pizza’s the best in the world is amor.
I would say more but there may be spies from other hostels reading this..
Mirko is an absolute legend and his willingness to teach made our trip to the Colca Canyon! He has also started a local football club to encourage sport in Cabanaconde, they raise money for the not for profit club by selling beautiful postcards in the restaurant. He’s a really positive and genuine person with a passion for teaching, so if you need to buy postcards on your trip, wait till you see the selection at Pachamama 🙂
Pachamama is a charming, clean and warm hostel with lovely staff. We wish we had stayed here. The cost for a double room was 60 soles with a private bathroom and great breakfast.
For more info:
Phone: 959316322 / 959346988 / 054-767277
Address: Calle San Pedro #209