Pizza, Beer and Social Responsibility in La Reina

Much of the cultural and culinary life in Santiago is organized around different barrios, and while this makes for a number of delightful and lively spots, it can also make it harder to find a diamond in the rough of the explicitly residential areas. Directly adjacent to an eight-lane mini-highway and across from one of the largest Jumbos in the city, though, a bike-themed, beer-and-pizza joint called Caramagnola consistently surprises.

Pizza! (photo by Eye Spy Cat)
Pizza! (photo by Eye Spy Cat)

As an artesanal beer enthusiast, I’ve made an effort to stop at every place that advertises that it serves Kross on draught; that Caramagnola is the only place I’ve encountered which serves the stuff in pitchers is both a testament to their no-frills approach and automatically merits a recommendation. With a large, inviting patio and a barely boarded-up fireplace illuminated by a DIY chandelier made of colorful plastic bottles, Caramagnola is primarily a place to sit around, drink beer and eat pizza.

The Bar (photo courtesy of Caramagnola)
The Bar (photo courtesy of Caramagnola)

The pizzas are not the fanciest in Santiago, nor are they the cheapest. But you’ll be hard pressed to find a more satisfying pie that isn’t served over a white tablecloth. Each pizza has an amusing bike-themed name that is related to the toppings either directly ('Tandem' has double pepperoni) or jokingly ('Single Speed' has a ton of veggies, but no meat). It’s worth noting that the price-to-area ratio is identical for individual and large pizzas, something I know thanks to a degree in mathematics and zero qualms about going to bars by myself.

The bike theme extends beyond the pizza names and the huge, stylized paintings of tatted-up folks on fixies: if you arrive at Caramagnola on a bicycle, you get 10% off your bill. Though there’s a sizable bike rack, the head bartender José says that it is often insufficient: “it’s very common that [people come on bikes], especially in the afternoon on weekends." Pointing to the gates enclosing the patio, he says they are sometimes “full of bikes.”

Welcome to Caramagnola (photo by Eye Spy Cat)
Welcome to Caramagnola (photo by Eye Spy Cat)

The bike discount has helped Caramagnola attract a lot of customers, but it is not primarily a business ploy. José says that it is designed to “encourage the use of bicycles… it’s good if people don’t drive around so much.” Though he mentions that fewer cars means less pollution, that concern seems secondary to the desire to promote biking culture.

Bikes offer mobility and thus a degree of autonomy to people who cannot afford a car, which in Santiago is a sizable number. More riders creates a greater demand for bike lanes and a higher degree of awareness among drivers. This makes biking safer, which in turn makes the activity more attractive to more people—it’s an egalitarian, eco-friendly positive feedback loop.

Quite a feat for a beer and pizza place! Though riding your bike to Caramagnola won’t save the world, it does make for an enormously pleasant afternoon.

Open seven days a week, 1 pm to 1 am. No recommendations necessary, though it may be tough to get a seat if there’s a soccer match on. Prices are around $3,000 CLP for an individual pizza and $5,000 for a pitcher of artesanal beer.

Address: Francisco Bilbao 4471, La Reina. Take the Metro to Francisco Bilbao and walk for three blocks East.

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