When it comes to sandwiches, there's no such thing as too much variety. The combination possibilities are almost limitless, stymied only by the imagination of the sandwich maker. "What else can we stack between two slices of bread?" is the rallying question of kitchen pros, street-food vendors around the world, and just about every kid tall enough to reach the refrigerator handle and countertop.
In Argentinian eateries, an abundance of beef mixed with culinary influences from Spain, Italy and France have resulted in an array of meaty sandwiches that, until recently, were difficult to track down in Denver. But thanks to Argentinian expat Leonardo Tartufoli, you can now fill up on choripan, milanesa and matambrito, to name just a small selection of the options at his new restaurant, Carne — Argentina Street Food.
Tartufoli and his wife, Andrea, hail from Buenos Aires and moved to Colorado nine years ago after first testing the waters in Los Angeles and Utah. In 2017, the couple opened Argentos Empanadas in Silverthorne, with Andrea as the chef and Leo (as he prefers) as the manager. And then when the space at 258 Santa Fe Drive, which previously held El Tazumal (a Salvadoran pupusas place), became available, they decided to expand to Denver.
Although empanadas are available at the new eatery, the specialty of the house is sandwiches. Tartufoli's goal is to bring the essence of Buenos Aires street food to a Denver audience. "In Buenos Aires, you will find carritos [food carts] on the street, on the plaza, by the river open 24 hours — you can find sandwiches all night or for lunch during the business day," he explains.
While those sandwiches are served from semi-permanent carts and stands, customers generally don't take them to go; instead, they eat at cafe tables or benches so that the food can be enjoyed fresh and hot. That's the best way to do it at Carne, too, since the sandwiches are exceptionally saucy and the bread can get soggy if wrapped up and held for too long.
Beef, pork and chicken all get their due in various forms. Carne's milanesa sports a breaded beef cutlet pounded thin and served on a roll similar to the Mexican telera often used to make tortas. For a more steak-like option, the vacío comes loaded with flank steak marinated in tangy chimichurri.
The matambrito features grilled pork steak on a baguette-style roll, and the lomito adds ham and two fried eggs atop the pork. This one's more of a fork-and-knife sandwich, though you can tackle it with two hands if you don't mind getting a little messy.
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The choripan, stuffed with sausage, is one of Argentina's best-known sandwiches. According to Leo, the sausage is made in-house from a blend of pork, beef, red wine and seasonings. In fact, everything on the menu but the buns is made in Carne's tiny kitchen. Boldly seasoned wedge fries come with every sandwich, and there are several sauces available on the side, including chimichurri, salsa criolla (similar to pico de gallo, but with oil added) and salsa golf (a mayonnaise-based sauce with tomato).
If you're not in the mood for a sandwich, you can get an order of three empanadas filled with seasoned ground beef, or an ensalada de entraña, a whole grilled skirt steak served on a bed of lettuce. Drinks include bottled Topo Chico and other Latin American sodas.
Sandwiches run in the $12 to $13 range, but they're big. If you manage to finish your lomito or vacío and fries for lunch, you'll probably need to take the rest of the afternoon off. Best to visit with a friend and split a sandwich and an order of empanadas for the full Argentinian experience.
Carne — Argentina Street Food is located at 258 Santa Fe Drive; it's open from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Call 729-510-3999 or visit carneargentinastreetfood.com for details.