Chef Paulo Barros is one of the shining stars of São Paulo’s burgeoning Italian restaurant scene, notching up ‘best Italian restaurant’ badges for four years running at the perenially popular Due Cuochi. It’s little surprise, then, that his new venture – Italy – left hungry hopefuls being turned away during the first couple of months.
We bagged a table – a sunny spot up on the third-floor roof terrace – on our second attempt, to see if there was more to Italy than just hype. The comprehensive menu goes big on pasta and risotto, with surprising – and as well as plain odd – combinations, like ravioli with prawns, mango chutney and ginger sauce. We opted for the tagliorini with prawns, artichokes and shitake mushrooms (R$51) – a generous bowl of pasta with a satisfying number of large, juicy prawns.
Fans of Barros’ signature Due Cuochi dish of egg yolk-filled ravioline will be delighted to see it reincarnated here, with a trio of raviolini (R$38), each filled with spinach, ricotta and an entire egg yolk whose glossy yellow nectar oozes out on to the plate. It left us pondering how on earth he gets the eggs in there intact – and still feeling a bit hungry.
The curious might just crack the egg mystery, as each floor of the expansive space has a TV screen with a live feed from the kitchen. There’s a shiny elevator too, connecting the three floors which, combined with the fierce air-conditioning and the charmless decor, lends it the slight air of a hotel lobby.
Italy’s redeeming features are its roof terrace (a sun-trap with zero view, making it better suited to cool evenings than sweaty lunches), its location on sought-after Rua Oscar Freire, the interesting pastas and the dish of the day: featuring a simple plate of meat or fish, like rack of lamb or roast rabbit. For dessert, roll down the road to Bacio de Latte for some of the best Italian ice cream in town.