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The al fresco dining area at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, has recently gotten an upgrade with fresher, healthier food.

The al fresco dining area at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, has recently gotten an upgrade with fresher, healthier food. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

The al fresco dining area at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, has recently gotten an upgrade with fresher, healthier food.

The al fresco dining area at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, has recently gotten an upgrade with fresher, healthier food. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Los Bandidos serves fresh tacos, quesadillas, beans and rice made to order from a tiny kitchen on Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy. It opened in October.

Los Bandidos serves fresh tacos, quesadillas, beans and rice made to order from a tiny kitchen on Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy. It opened in October. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Los Bandidos' crispy pork tacos before the addition of various toppings. The dining option is relatively new to Caserme Ederle in Vicenza, Italy.

Los Bandidos' crispy pork tacos before the addition of various toppings. The dining option is relatively new to Caserme Ederle in Vicenza, Italy. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Los Bandidos' crispy pork tacos after the addition of a chile sauce, sour cream, chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro and lime. The eatery is located at Caserme Ederele in Vicenza, Italy.

Los Bandidos' crispy pork tacos after the addition of a chile sauce, sour cream, chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro and lime. The eatery is located at Caserme Ederele in Vicenza, Italy. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Los Bandidos on Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, offers three sauces, sour cream and fresh onions, tomatoes, cabbage, cilantro and limes to complete its mains of tacos, quesadillas and other Mexican dishes.

Los Bandidos on Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, offers three sauces, sour cream and fresh onions, tomatoes, cabbage, cilantro and limes to complete its mains of tacos, quesadillas and other Mexican dishes. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Celebrity chef and CNN travel host Anthony Bourdain says he sneaks off to Popeyes for their mac and cheese. I myself fell victim in the early 2000s to the franchise’s million-calorie deep-fried catfish sandwich.

But for years I’ve avoided the usual Army base fast-food offerings. Not only because of calories and trans fats. I had the worst-tasting hot dog of my life on base — and I’ve eaten gas station hot dogs.

Then last week I tried Los Bandidos, one of several kiosk eateries lining Caserma Ederle’s outdoor dining area in Vicenza.

I ordered the al pastor tacos, described as three tortillas with marinated pork shoulder, special achiote sauce and pineapple. It was busy, and I waited about eight minutes while it was made to order. I took my paper plate with my 7.50-euro meal (about $8.70) to one of the red metal tables. It was love at first bite.

The pork lay smoky and soft inside the charred flour tortilla. The fresh pineapple added a touch of sweetness. The achiote, made of numerous herbs, spices and zests, added complexity. I needed a multitude of napkins.

I still fondly recall my first sight of the taco toppings. “Oh, look — chopped cilantro!” I almost shouted. “Fresh limes!”

There were also three different vibrantly colored sauces, sour cream, chopped tomatoes and onions. Everything was fresh — and tasted like it.

Los Bandidos, Portuguese for “the bandits,” opened in October as part of a recent Army effort to provide more healthful food. It’s owned and operated by a woman from Guatemala and her Italian chef husband, along with two employees. They all cram into the small space to meet what’s been a significant demand. It’s a family-owned enterprise, not part of a chain or franchise.

On another visit I tried the carnitas chicharron crispy pork tacos, also sigh-inducing. I’m looking forward to the chicken quesadillas and the fajita bowl with rice, beans, veggies and beef. And I can’t wait for the next “Crazy Corn” Wednesday, when roasted, spicy corn is available. But I think my heart will always belong to the al pastor tacos.

montgomery.nancy@stripes.com

Los BandidosAddress: Caserma Ederle, Vicenza, Italy

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sundays.

Prices: 4.50 euros ($5.30) for the beans and rice appetizer, 10 euros ($12) for a combination platter of quesadillas or tacos with rice and beans and a beverage. Tacos or quesadillas with meat are 7-7.50 euros. Vegetarian quesadillas are 7 euros; cheese quesadillas are 5 euros. Sodas and bottled water are 1 euro.

Information: (+39)0444-71-6285; website: facebook.com/bandidos.it

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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