By Sarah Brown, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Ipanema in Zona Sul (South Zone) is one of Rio’s most popular neighborhoods. Undeniably a multicultural hub, deep down it maintains the unpretentious charm of an international community with a steady, all-year-round ebb of tourists from all corners of the globe.
Zona Sul in Rio is huge yet Ipanema is wonderfully compact and easy to get around on foot. The chatter of various languages course relentlessly through the streets and that unshakeable summer vibe is everywhere at any time of year. It’s here that Rio saw one of its first culinary revolutions and now has a number of solidly good restaurants.
One of the most famous among tourists is Garota de Ipanema, taking its name from the famous song by Vinicius de Moraes. Andrew Creelman, an expat in São Paulo yet frequent holiday-maker to Rio loved eating there with his family the last time they visited.
“The restaurant boasts some very friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere,” shares Creelman. “Adorning the walls are lyrics to the Girl of Ipanema, making this charming place a must-visit stop on a visit to Rio.”
The picanha at Garota de Ipanema is unbeatable. Served on a sizzling hot plate at the table, guests can let the tender steak cook as little or as much as they like before washing it down with an extra cold chopp (Brazilian beer).
Pici Trattoria is a recently-opened Italian restaurant that offers contemporary food that maintains all the classic flavors of Italy. The meals are prepared by chef, Thiago Berton using fresh ingredients and meals are served in a cozy, intimate environment.
“I’ve always had a taste for Italian cuisine,” revealed Berton to Globo. “In addition to childhood filled with large meals prepared by my grandmother, I lived in Piemonte and my first job was in an Italian restaurant.”
Pop-up restaurant meets cafe, Casa Carandai will be serving its loyal diners until the end of the year. The food is freshly prepared on the day and represents cafe cuisine in gourmet style including salads, breads, cakes and sandwiches. One of the most popular sandwich combinations is the Italian salami with locally-sourced Serra canastra cheese wedged inside a fresh ciabatta.
For a taste of Spain, head to Venga! for authentic spanish tapas and dangerously good sangria that comes with red, wine or rose wine. The venue is small yet cozy without being claustophobic and the quality of food attracts a large crowd on weekdays and the weekend. The bruschettas, the manchgo cheese and the ham croquettes come highly recommended.
Beer fans will love Delirium Tap House that grants the opportunity of eating Asian style cuisine whilst sampling a wide range of beers. The space is bright and laid back with a buzzing vibe, making the atmosphere just as good as the food. Each dish is filled with a unique combination of flavors that is simply mouth-watering and there are some excellent vegetarian dishes on the menu, something not so easy to find in meat-loving Brazil.
For the most authentic Mexican food you can find in town, head to Azteka which has burritos and nachos capable of sending diners straight to the sunny shores of Mexico. The atmosphere is cozy and welcoming with a relaxed vibe.
With its white sandy shores, glorious backdrops and calm ocean, Ipanema will always be remembered for its incomparable beach days. Yet with a number of restaurants passionate about traditionally good food and quality products, its Ipanema’s gastronomical scene that is beginning to get noticed too.