Culinary Tourism in Santa Teresa

By Bruno De Nicola, Senior Reporter

Santiago Harte, Manager of The Cafecito, photo by Bruno De Nicola

Santiago Harte, Manager of The Cafecito, photo by Bruno De Nicola.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Though sometimes written off by the national press, businesses can undoubtedly flourish in Santa Teresa, the historical and truly bohemian neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro largely because it consistently captures visitors’ imaginations.

Certainly not all Cariocas share the same feelings about it, with many afraid to make the journey up into an area surrounded by favelas on all sides, but regardless, foreigners just seem to love it, and over the past five years Santa Teresa has witnessed a boom in tourism-related business and services.

It is sad, therefore, that as soon as something bad happens in the neighborhood, business slows down and customers begin to stay away. The recent coverage of the death of the charity Afroreggae’s Evandro Joao da Silva, for example, has brought some unwanted negative coverage to the community.

It certainly is not easy to decipher whether or not investing in Santa Teresa is a good idea. On the one hand you have the beautiful houses and incredible views, but on the other its popularity is susceptible to huge fluctuations and not least of all – because of the Carioca love of the beach.

For those who are not so familiar with the neighborhood, Santa Teresa isn’t on the beach, but it is a genuine historical beauty right in the heart of Rio de Janeiro and is the home of many artists and cultural events. Here, old colonial buildings blend with modern constructions while its iconic 108 year-old tram, the Brazilian version of ones you see in San Francisco, rattles along the streets, itself attracting a great number of tourists.

However, Santa Teresa is primarily a residential area and therefore it doesn’t count on too many businesses: only a few stores and around 15 restaurants and bars; the rest are hotels, which go from the relatively cheap youth-hostels to a few top class hotels such as the recently opened Santa Teresa Hotel.

The ‘Cafecito’ is the newest business in Santa Teresa having opened just two weeks ago, and is a delicatessen right in the midst of the historical area partly owned and managed by Santiago Harte, an Argentine who has lived in the neighborhood for twenty-four years.

Mr. Harte believes that; “because of its peculiar profile, Santa Teresa is becoming an important culinary district” in the Cidade Maravilhosa. In an interview with The Rio Times he stated that “the Cafecito’s menu is a mix of products that should please both the people who live in the area and those who come to have something uncommon in a very special environment”.

Histrionic pizza maker, Paulo Rafael Pizarro, photo by Bruno De Nicola

Histrionic pizza maker, Paulo Rafael Pizarro, photo by Bruno De Nicola.

Mr. Harte also hopes that the cultural agenda of Santa Teresa improves in terms of organization; “If the government and the local societies work better on producing the area’s events” he says, “all businesses here will grow rapidly”.

Pizza maker and Actor, Paulo Rafael Pizarro decided to jump into the action. His successful pizzeria in the Largo das Letras cultural area is based on “an interesting blend between food and arts”.

Mr. Pizzarro is a histrionic cook who enjoys acting on the streets of Santa Teresa to attract those who love cultural happenings. “The Largo das Letras is for everybody” he stated, as he pointed out that “a good relationship with the locals is essential for successful businesses in the area”.

Mr. Pizzarro, in opposition to Mr. Harte, doesn’t seem to enjoy the idea of Santa Teresa becoming a culinary district. “Even though it could help the Pizzeria sell more, I’m afraid that neighborhood doesn’t have the right infrastructure for great numbers of visitors” he said.

That may be true, and the recent tram accident certainly slowed down trade for a period, but regardless of such occasional hiccups, there can be little doubt that to remain untouched by Santa Teresa’s unique magic is next to impossible, and that as a result there will never be a shortage of people trying their arm at the business venture that means they can make this hillside their home.

3 Responses to "Culinary Tourism in Santa Teresa"

  1. Vania Maciel  November 20, 2009 at 7:26 AM

    Although I had never given any though to this borough (I grew up here), 17 years away guaranteed a mind blowing experience when I came back this April. It is like being in holiday every day. Birds twitting, marmosets walking the cable lines, and coming down for a banana or two, if you have a garden, are things you will experience living here. Plus a whiff of some flower in bloom as soon as you get out of your house or flat will make your day. You may even spot a toucan if you are very lucky.
    And there are the views, in whatever bad mood you may come from work, as soon as the bus or tram starts to come up its slopes, whatever your worries are, they will dwindle down to a contented bliss. And up here it is always a 1C fresher than downtown at the very least.

    And in this place you will find loads of smiling people, greeting are a common thing around the streets, and somehow everybody knows you, at the very least by sight. The bus driver will even remember your stop. As a taxi driver once put so well, people of Santa Teresa can be annoyingly Zen. Time does seem to run differently in here.

    And despite all the favelas it is very calm. More infra structure is definitely needed, like better internet connections, more cash points, better transport and security etc. And I think most people in here, although proud of the place, and willing for the local business to go forward, they are at very least, concerned about seeing the place too packed. We have already the Open Doors, where all the artists open their workshop doors, once a year. Maybe another one in summer would be nice too, and that will be, probably enough.

  2. Daniel Willmer  June 8, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    Put it this way:
    Holiday every day is for those who do not have to work. Try sleeping when the bunch of noisy drunk tourists come walking under your room’s window and tell me if there is any pleasure in it.
    Want to kill a place, recomend it for tourism! As for the busses I would recommend you checking the AMAST web Site , and find out what for people who live here think about it.
    As for the “Open Doors” you really mean the doors of the bars… If you like drunkards or dope, then Santa Teresa is the place (I do Prefer Lapa – as least I can have a cup of coffee…)

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